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!


Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this review. Interesting about that title. I wouldn't have thought it a very promising title either, but it sounds like a much better movie than it seems on the surface.

pattinase (abbott) said...

There have been some excellent films made from her novels.

Dorte H said...

It certainly sounds tempting.

I have read most of Rendell´s Wexford and Burden novels, but far from all her stand-alones and short stories, but recently I got a new pile from my uncle with plenty of Rendell treats.

NB: did you see my facebook message the other day?

aguja said...

Must look for this film, Martin.

Lucky you, being in Dublin! We shall be there next June, where I hope to be jamming with my bodhran ... a step removed from library talks .... but perhaps I can fit in something.

I manage to fit in the writng, illustrating and the music.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks very much for your comments. Dorte - will respond more fully soon, but have just returned from brief but exciting trip to Africa of all places and I'm off to London later this week.
One of these days, I must figure out why some of my posts now appear in a more cramped form than others. I am tempted to blame new Blogger, but I suppose I'm doing something wrong. But what? I'm not sure how to change the line spacing now...