Domesticity And Family Life In Claude Renoir's The Unfaithful Wife

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Early poetic realism films such as Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game criticized the corruption, and, immorality of the French upper class; as if recalling these years, Claude Chabrol’s The Unfaithful Wife partakes in a similar criticism of the French bourgeoisie. At the start of the film, the audience is introduced to the seemingly perfect yet wealthy Desvallées family. The family is portrayed as being perfect as they embody the qualities of a conservative family including morality, good taste, and culture. Through this film, Chabrol destroys the myth of upper class perfection by revealing that the husband’s role in this patriarchal system is not secure, and the wife, a central figure in domesticity and family life, is a not a model of morality …show more content…
The true tension that exists in the family is seen in the scene where Charles and Hélène share dinner after he had seen Hélène act suspiciously when receiving a call at 0:04:41. In this scene Charles silently gazes at his wife as she eats, and when she notices his serious gaze she smiles at him. She smiles in an attempt to cover up the underlying tension that exists between them; her smile is a superficial attempt to dispel all of the suspicions that he has against her. Her smile is an act, and as such is something that only exists on the surface for others to see. In response to her smile, Charles forces a smile back before asking her if she loves him. Charles’s question, like Hélène’s smile is an indirect way to cover up the underlying tension that exists between them. Instead of voicing his thoughts and suspicions, Charles instead indirectly poses the question at his wife. The repetition of his question, shows his need to affirm his place in the family as well as within his wife’s heart. Similarly to the upper class in Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, Charles is forced to suppress his true feelings and thoughts in order to create the impression that all is well in the family. To create the illusion that they are a perfectly happy family in front of his son, whose eyes wander back and forth between his parents during their conversation, he must smile alongside

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