You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Germaine and Benjamin

Fans of cerebral French helmer Jacques Doillon will adore "Germaine and Benjamin," a splendid dramatization of the historic love affair between Franco-Swiss author and statesman Benjamin Constant and the brilliant Madame de Stael. A discursive talkfest rolling over two hours, pic is aimed squarely at arthouse regulars who are willing to read non-stop subtitles and revel in the subtle S&M games couples played in Napoleon's day.

With:
Germaine de Stael ... Anne Brochet Benjamin Constant ... Benoit Regent Anna Lindsay ... Frances Barber Juliette Recamier ... Sophie Broustal Prosper de Barante ... Thibault de Montalembert Albertine ... Louise-Laure Mariani Charlotte de Hardenberg ... Catherine Bidaut Monsieur de Stael ... Hans Zischler

Fans of cerebral French helmer Jacques Doillon will adore “Germaine and Benjamin,” a splendid dramatization of the historic love affair between Franco-Swiss author and statesman Benjamin Constant and the brilliant Madame de Stael. A discursive talkfest rolling over two hours, pic is aimed squarely at arthouse regulars who are willing to read non-stop subtitles and revel in the subtle S&M games couples played in Napoleon’s day.

Pic has a technical claim to fame: It’s the first feature shot entirely in high-definition digital video, then transferred to 35mm. The vid tapings allowed Doillon and cinematographer William Lubtchansky to indulge in extraordinarily lengthy takes that give the film a distinctive, rather theatrical style.

The technique’s touted ability to offer great depth of field without much lighting may be debated, since most scenes indoors are shallow two-shots. But the overall beauty of the lensing will convert many skeptics to the esthetic possibilities of video. Production manager Serge Roux says the process was cheaper than shooting in 35mm.

Constant (Benoit Regent) and Germaine de Stael (Anne Brochet) began their tempestuous liaison in 1794. There are no bedroom scenes in pic, but there is much passion, tears and theorizing about love. Doillon emphasizes both de Stahl’s brilliant, febrile mind and the dominating influence she exerted over those around her, first of all Constant. She pushed him into a political career after the French Revolution, and later urged him to have the courage of his convictions and publish her own anti-Napoleon book.

The characters change costume but don’t age. After nearly 20 years, they meet for the last time. Constant has remarried, de Stahl’s children are grown, but they’re still emotionally involved in a masochistic love-hate relationship that has nowhere to go but in circles.

Brochet is riveting as the impetuous, selfishand emotional Germaine, upstaging even Regent’s strongly likable, modern Constant. The chemistry between the two thesps is a pleasure, even when the characters’ emotional life becomes repetitive.

Most scenes are variations on the two lovers closeted together in richly decorated Empire interiors, Brochet in eye-catching gowns and turbans, the less secure Regent figuratively at her feet. Jean-Francois Goyet’s dialogue is sophisticated, often impassioned, and barely pauses for an embrace.

Germaine and Benjamin

(FRENCH)

Production: A GMT Prods. production, in association with La Sept/Arte, SFP, Home Made Movies, Club d'Investissement Media, Babelsberg Studio (Germany). (International sales: Marathon Intl., Paris.) Produced by Jean-Pierre Guerin. Executive producer, Beatrice Caufman. Directed by Jacques Doillon. Screenplay, Jean-Francois Goyet.

Crew: Camera (color), William Lubtchansky; editor, Francois Dufau; art direction and costumes, Anais Romand; sound, Jean-Pierre Duret. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Special Events), Sept. 7, 1994. Running time: 138 MIN.

With: Germaine de Stael ... Anne Brochet Benjamin Constant ... Benoit Regent Anna Lindsay ... Frances Barber Juliette Recamier ... Sophie Broustal Prosper de Barante ... Thibault de Montalembert Albertine ... Louise-Laure Mariani Charlotte de Hardenberg ... Catherine Bidaut Monsieur de Stael ... Hans Zischler

More Film

  • Stranger Things Season 2

    Netflix, Deutsche Telekom Ink Global Partnership

    Fans of cerebral French helmer Jacques Doillon will adore “Germaine and Benjamin,” a splendid dramatization of the historic love affair between Franco-Swiss author and statesman Benjamin Constant and the brilliant Madame de Stael. A discursive talkfest rolling over two hours, pic is aimed squarely at arthouse regulars who are willing to read non-stop subtitles and […]

  • 'Sweet Country,' 'Newton' Share Honors at

    'Sweet Country,' 'Newton' Share Top Honors at Asia Pacific Screen Awards

    Fans of cerebral French helmer Jacques Doillon will adore “Germaine and Benjamin,” a splendid dramatization of the historic love affair between Franco-Swiss author and statesman Benjamin Constant and the brilliant Madame de Stael. A discursive talkfest rolling over two hours, pic is aimed squarely at arthouse regulars who are willing to read non-stop subtitles and […]

  • Canal Plus

    AMC Networks International Picks Up Canal Plus Show 'Ouro' for Spain, Portugal

    Fans of cerebral French helmer Jacques Doillon will adore “Germaine and Benjamin,” a splendid dramatization of the historic love affair between Franco-Swiss author and statesman Benjamin Constant and the brilliant Madame de Stael. A discursive talkfest rolling over two hours, pic is aimed squarely at arthouse regulars who are willing to read non-stop subtitles and […]

  • Overview of IDFA’s 2017 Forum

    IDFA Forum: ‘Documentary Makers Want To Go Behind The News’

    Fans of cerebral French helmer Jacques Doillon will adore “Germaine and Benjamin,” a splendid dramatization of the historic love affair between Franco-Swiss author and statesman Benjamin Constant and the brilliant Madame de Stael. A discursive talkfest rolling over two hours, pic is aimed squarely at arthouse regulars who are willing to read non-stop subtitles and […]

  • Serbian Doc 'The Other Side of

    'The Other Side of Everything' Leads Winners From a Politically Charged IDFA Lineup

    Fans of cerebral French helmer Jacques Doillon will adore “Germaine and Benjamin,” a splendid dramatization of the historic love affair between Franco-Swiss author and statesman Benjamin Constant and the brilliant Madame de Stael. A discursive talkfest rolling over two hours, pic is aimed squarely at arthouse regulars who are willing to read non-stop subtitles and […]

  • Ventana Sur: Blood Window Work In

    Ventana Sur: A Breakdown of This Year's Blood Window Work in Progress Section

    Fans of cerebral French helmer Jacques Doillon will adore “Germaine and Benjamin,” a splendid dramatization of the historic love affair between Franco-Swiss author and statesman Benjamin Constant and the brilliant Madame de Stael. A discursive talkfest rolling over two hours, pic is aimed squarely at arthouse regulars who are willing to read non-stop subtitles and […]

  • Overview of IDFA’s 2017 Shifting Perspectives

    IDFA’s Shifting Perspectives Program – ‘It’s About Ownership Of Images’

    Fans of cerebral French helmer Jacques Doillon will adore “Germaine and Benjamin,” a splendid dramatization of the historic love affair between Franco-Swiss author and statesman Benjamin Constant and the brilliant Madame de Stael. A discursive talkfest rolling over two hours, pic is aimed squarely at arthouse regulars who are willing to read non-stop subtitles and […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content