Amazon Prime Video has boarded Melanie Laurent’s anticipated period mystery thriller “Le bal des folles” as its first Original movie in France.
“Le bal des folles” is produced by Alain Goldman and Axelle Boucaï at Legende Films (“La Môme,” “The Spy”). Amazon Prime Video will launch the film exclusively in France and around the world in 2021.
The movie will start shooting next week in Rochefort, in western France. Penned by Laurent and Christophe Deslandes, “Le bal des folles” is based on the award-wining novel of the same name by Victoria Mas.
The film takes place at the end of the 19th century in Paris, at a time when women deemed too rebellious or difficult were frequently labeled as insane and institutionalized. The action unfolds at the Salpêtrière hospital where such women, diagnosed with different kinds of nervous system disorders, were confined and put under the supervision of neurologists such as Jean-Martin Charcot. Each year, a prestigious ball was organized with the patients and attracted the Parisian elite; it was a place to see and be seen.
Set against major historical events and bolstered by strong female protagonists, “Le bal des folles” tells the story of a young, radiant and passionate woman, Eugénie, who discovers at a young age that she has the special power to hear the dead. After her family discovers her secret, she is taken to the hospital without any way of escaping her fate. While there, she bonds with Geneviève, a nurse at the hospital. Their encounter will change both their futures as they prepare for Charcot’s ball.
“‘Le bal des folles’ is a mix of a fabulous IP, a powerful story and a topnotch team of filmmakers and producers,” said Thomas Dubois, head of French Amazon Originals for Prime Video.
“It’s exactly the type of projects that we love because it has an international dimension and a timeliness that we think will resonate with our subscribers worldwide,” said Dubois.
Dubois said the book and the project seemed compelling because “it’s a story about transmission between Eugénie and Geneviève at a time when women were being stigmatized if they thought differently.”
The film was previously set up at Gaumont, which had acquired French and international sales, and is one of the many projects to have been snatched up by a deep-pocketed streamer during the pandemic.
Goldman told Variety that it made sense for Legende Films to partner with Amazon on “Le bal des folles.”
“Amazon is giving us the resources to make a truly ambitious, authentic and singular period film with the scale and scope we had envisioned from the start,” said Goldman, who pointed out that Legende Films has been collaborating with a wide range of French and international partners over the years. The banner worked with Netflix on “The Spy” and with HBO Max on “Valley of Tears.”
On top of co-writing and directing the film, Laurent will headline the movie along with Lou de Laâge (“The Innocents”). Emmanuelle Bercot (“Mon roi”), Benjamin Voisin (“Summer 85”), Cédric Khan and Grégoire Bonnet will complete the cast.
Although the story unfolds in Paris, it will shoot at Rochefort’s Marine Hospital, a former hospital that has become a museum. “We found the perfect location to shoot in the safest way possible, taken into considering the health protocol brought on by the pandemic,” said Dubois, adding that the movie was a “big production with some sprawling decors.”
Laurent’s acting credits include “Inglorious Basterds,” “Enemy,” and most recently, “6 Underground” and “Operation Finale.”
A critically acclaimed filmmaker, Laurent previously worked with de Laâge on her feature debut “Breathe” which world premiered at Cannes’ Critics Week in 2014. Laurent’s pipeline of projects include the WW2 drama “The Nightingale” with Elle and Dakota Fanning.
“Le bal des folles” will join a broad selection of French Amazon Original movies, including “Brutus vs Cesar” and “Forte,” though these films were straight acquisitions for the streamer. Amazon Prime Video’s catalogue in France includes international movies such as “Borat 2,” “Bloodshot,” “Pinocchio,” and the latest specials from Jérôme Commandeur, Fabrice Eboué, Ary Abittan and Alban Ivanov.