Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • TBC
  • Biography, Crime
  • 2000
  • 94 mins

Murderous Maids

Murderous Maids

Synopsis

The true-life story of the murderous Papin sisters gets a restrained retelling in this thoughtful and disturbing period drama from director Jean-Pierre Denis

About

In the annals of true crime, the infamous Papin sisters' double murder in 1930s Lyon has always remained an enigma. Why was it that these two seemingly shy young maids viciously attacked and killed their employer and her daughter? To his credit, director Jean-Pierre Denis' Murderous Maids (Les Blessures Assassines) doesn't try to find a definitive answer to that question, choosing instead to show how ordinary circumstances could fuel such extra-ordinary behaviour. The result is a subtle, but deeply disturbing drama, that's all the more powerful for not tying up every loose end.

Since the outcome of the story is never in any doubt (even if you hadn't heard of the Papin case, the title's a giveaway), Denis takes his time with the narrative, trapping us, like the characters, within the strict confines of the world of service that these two girls are forced into by their greedy mother. As Christine, Sylvie Testud (The Château, La Captive) gives a stunning performance that captures the inward rage of a girl pushed to the brink of her sanity by incest, adolescent sexual desire and the overwhelming awareness of her second-class status. Imbuing her character with an emotional range that prevents her from becoming one-dimensionally immoral, Testud teases out Christine's gradual disintegration over the course of the film.

The result is a drama that evokes the despair of these two immature girls as the hopeless tedium of their lives bears down upon them. But what's so tragic is that not even Christine's final moment of violence can save them. Acting without foresight, their murderous explosion only serves to bring the walls in closer around them. Perhaps that's why the aftermath - in which their sanity is finally wrenched from them - is so utterly distressing.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Dominique Labourier, François Levantal, Sylvie Testud, Isabelle Renauld, Julie-Marie Parmentier
  • Director: Jean-Pierre Denis
  • Writer: Paulette Houdyer, Jean-Pierre Denis, Michèle Pétin
  • Producer: Michèle Pétin, Laurent Pétin
  • Photographer: Jean-Marc Fabre

In a nutshell

Verdict
Constructing this story with sensitive slowness, Denis keeps the sensational aspects surrounding these incestuous lesbian sisters in check, letting a fantastic performance from Testud carry the movie.

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 The Sitter

    The Sitter

    Jonah Hill stars as a slacker who's forced to fill in as a babysitter for a night, but the kids he's looking after prove more than he can handle when he takes them on a crime-filled trip through NYC

  • Film4 Amy

    Amy

    Senna director Asif Kapadia tells the story of Amy Winehouse in her own words with the use of unseen archive footage and previously unheard tracks

  • Film4 Evil Dead

    Saturday Night Shocks on Film4

    Horror, mystery and suspense stake its claim on the weekend. A new season of Saturday Night Shocks comes to Film4.

  • Film4 Bridesmaids

    Comedy Season 2015 on Film4

    Eight nights of contemporary comedy hits, including first plays of Cuban Fury, American Reunion, The Sitter, and the network premiere of 21 & Over, on Film4

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Cannes 2015 Wrap Up

    I've just come out of the press screening of the festival's Closing Night film - the ecological documentary The Ice and the Sky - and, for me, Cannes is finished for another year. A few great films an

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Cannes 2015: Love at the movies

    Film4 Channel Editor David Cox reports on the closing days of Cannes 2015... We're down to the last few days of the festival now, with crowds thinning out and the amount of films still to premiere co

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share