Monday, June 13, 2011

8 Women (8 Femmes) -- Secrets and their Impact

Director: François Ozon, 2002. (R) 

8 Women could be pointing to the “who’s who” of French actresses who comprise the cast. Topped by Catherine Deneuve (A Christmas Tale), possibly the greatest living French actress, she is joined by Isabelle Huppert (Thank You for the Chocolate), Fanny Ardant and Emmanuelle Beart to name just a few. In fact, though, the 8 women are the suspects in a murder in this French musical murder-mystery.

It is Christmas in the snowy French countryside in the 1950s. As a family gathers together to celebrate the holiday, the patriarch, a wealthy industrialist is discovered murdered in his bedroom. Seven women are together in the living room and one other joins them. Any one of them could be the murderer. It could be his wife Gaby (Deneuve), his two daughters Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen) and Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier), his neurotic and spinsterly sister-in-law Augustine (Huppert), his greedy and miserly mother-in-law Mamy (Danielle Darrieux), his floozy sister Pierrette (Ardant), his loyal cook Chanel (Firmine Richard) or his new sexy maid Louise (Beart). Each has a motive. Each has a secret.

When they find the phone line has been cut, the car has been damaged and the gate has been blocked, they realize they are isolated in the house and one of them is the killer. But which is it? As the film progresses, their secrets are revealed, shocking each other and showing there is more to each one than meets the eye.

Ozon gives each woman a song to sing along the way. These are mostly short but the lyrics are a little odd. They probably make more sense to the French, but the English subtitles make the songs seem somewhat random. Still, the film is farcical and fun, even if it veers to the melodramatic at a few points.

Familial and personal secrets are the ethical theme that fuels the film. The point here, of course, is that all the secrets that emerge are a result of sin. And a veritable array of sins it is, from greed (Isa. 57:17, Rom. 1:29) to jealousy (Rom. 13:13), from sex (Exod. 20:14) to stealing (Exod. 20:15). Having sinned, the women wanted to hide their deeds. But sin has consequences, and when the truth comes out, as it always does, the impact is terrible. The strong relational ties from the beginning of the film have become damaged, even severed, by the end.

It is clear, though, that if these women had not sinned they would have no secrets. Moreover, if they had come clean and confessed the power of the secret would have been removed. Only by virtue of the personal deceit did the women put themselves in a position of vulnerability.

The storyline illustrates the principle of leaving a life of transparency with our family, friends and coworkers. When we are open and admit our faults and failures, even our sins, we can receive forgiveness. God himself offers forgives us when we sin, if we confess before him (1 Jn. 1:9). The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ provided the necessary atonement for all sin (Rom. 3:25, Col. 2:13), at all times (Heb. 7:27). . . . even for these 8 women!

Copyright ©2011, Martin Baggs

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