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Melanie Laurent to Write, Direct Female-Driven Period Thriller ‘The Mad Women’s Ball’

Melanie Laurent poses for photographers prior
Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Melanie Laurent, the successful French actor (“Inglourious Basterds”) and filmmaker (“Gaveston”), is set to write and direct “The Mad Women’s Ball,” a period thriller based on the award-wining novel by Victoria Mas.

Alain Goldman’s Legende Films, the well-established French production outfit behind Marion Cotillard starrer “La Môme,” “The Round Up” and “An Officer and a Spy,” is set to produce “The Mad Women’s Ball.” The company has acquired the rights to the book which won the high school students’s prestigious Renaudot prize last year. Axelle Boucaï will be producing the film with Goldman at Legende Films.

The story of “The Mad Women’s Ball” 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 these 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.

As in the book, the film adaptation will follow a woman who was unfairly institutionalized at the Salpêtrière hospital and manages to escape. An ambitious film in terms of scope, “The Mad Women’s Ball” will be set against major historical events.

“It will be a powerful, cinematic and engaging thriller about the injustice that these women faced during that time,” said Goldman, adding that audiences will be “rooting for this strong character who sets herself free.” He described the ball as a strange and quite perverse event meant to entertain Parisian socialites.

Goldman said “The Mad Women’s Ball” will be lushly lensed and have a sophisticated visual style to reflect the 19th’s aesthetic. The producer cited “Eyes Wide Shut” as an inspiration for the film’s tone and atmosphere, weaving thriller and mystery.

“The Mad Women’s Ball” is currently in development and Laurent will soon be starting to write the adaptation. The film might shoot in French or English.

Goldman said Laurent, whom he’s known for years and starred in both “La Mome” and “The Round Up,” was the ideal filmmaker to turn the book into a character-driven and visually strong movie. Laurent is about to direct Dakota and Elle Fanning in “The Nightingale,” a World War II drama set in Paris. Laurent previously made her English-language feature debut with the crime drama “Galveston” and directed several French films, including “Breathe” which played at Cannes’s Critics Week in 2014.

Lauren recently appeared in Netflix’s hit movie “6 Underground” and “Operation Finale,” and starred in “Enemy” and “By The Sea.”