Monday, 14 November 2011
Betty Fisher movie review
When I visited John Curran in Dublin, I had not only the chance to admire his book collection, but also his very wide-ranging collection of DVDs, and he recommended a number of films to me that I'd never even heard of before. Among them was a French film, directed by Claude Miller with the frankly unpromising title Betty Fisher and Other Stories.
I was startled to find that the film is based on a novel by Ruth Rendell. The source book is Tree of Hands, a suspense story I enjoyed reading when it first came out. But that was a long time ago, and I must admit I've forgotten how the story goes. That was probably an advantage, given that Betty Fisher focuses on the core themes, but with many changes of detail.
To some extent, it's a story about maternal instincts, as well as about grief and guilt. Betty is a successful novelist with a crazy mother. When her son dies in an accident, her mum kidnaps another child, whose mother is an occasional prostitute, and who doesn't seem to miss him much. The strands of the two women's lives intertwine time and again, ultimately with bloody results. The use of coincidence is very typical of Rendell, but the treatment somehow seems very Gallic, and the effect is rather stylish.
It's one of those films where you really can't be sure what is going to happen. I found I just about believed in the story, despite various implausibilities, and it certainly kept me gripped from start to finish. An odd movie, perhaps, but a good one. John is a sound judge!