The title THE WIDOW OF SAINT-PIERRE is a double entendre in that the heroine is widowed only at the very end of the movie and the French word “widow” is slang for the guillotine. The movie is set in 1849 on Saint-Pierre, one of the small cod islands owned by France near Newfoundland.
In a drunken act of barbarous cruelty, the fishermen Neel and Louis decide in the middle of the night that they want to determine whether a portly man is big or fat. They taunt him, and, when he comes out of his house, stab him, thus answering their question in the killing. The two men are tried, and Neel Auguste receives the death penalty while Louis gets life imprisonment.
The driver of the horse drawn cart taking Neel and Louis to prison loses control when stones are thrown at the passing prisoners. The carriage overturns, and Louis hits his head and dies.
While the picturesque town waits for a guillotine to be sent from France or one of its colonies so they can execute Neel, Neel is placed in the prison, under the supervision of the army Captain, Jean, who is married to the beautiful Pauline, or Madame La, as she is known. Pauline is a hopeless romantic, who comes from a wealthy family, but married beneath her station. The Captain is obsessed with Pauline and with giving her her way.
Instantly, Pauline becomes attracted to the thought of redeeming Neel and perhaps to Neel himself. The Captain’s passion for his wife seems to increase as her interest in Neel increases.
At first, Pauline has her husband put Neel to work in her garden. Then, she takes Neel around town to help repair people’s roofs. On one of these excursions, Neel gets a poor woman pregnant.
Even so, Neel’s many good deeds, which includes saving a woman from being crushed by a house that’s being moved on wheels, makes him beloved by the townspeople, which upsets the mayor and the presiding judge. When the mayor expresses his concerns, the Captain bristles and backs his wife in all that she does.
Eventually, the guillotine arrives, and the Captain refuses to execute Neel. The mayor files charges of sedition against the Captain. The Captain is shipped back to France to be executed, and Neel is executed on the island. Thus, Pauline becomes a widow.
THE WIDOW OF SAINT-PIERRE is beautifully filmed and has received superb reviews. The acting is subtle and complex. There’s more action than the average French movie, giving it a greater depth.
However, the message of the movie is depressing and unbiblical. Aside from the obvious anti-capital punishment motif, this woman’s infatuation with the noble savage, Neel, is the ultimate romantic fantasy and an absurd refutation of marriage, dignity, authority, and any of the other principles of civilization. How her husband could be so openly cuckolded is perplexing. How critics could think that this is an interesting storyline shows the confusion in critical circles. The husband and wife were both fools to be obsessed with her romantic fantasy.
The only moral moments in the movie are at the end when Neel gets executed and the poor Captain is shot by the firing squad. Justice prevails, although viewers are led to believe that those in authority and the executioners are the villains (and several of the secular reviews said just that!).
(RoRoRo, Ab, LL, VV, S, NN, A, D, M) Romantic worldview with an anti-capital punishment message, a subtle rebellion against authority & one anti-Christian statement; 13 obscenities & 2 mild profanities; taunting & knifing of a man in the shadows, townspeople throw stones at prisoners, runaway horse drawn prisoner cart overturns whereby a man hits head on a rock & dies, runaway house being moved on wheels, prisoner intimidated by guards on horseback, blocked view of guillotine where it looks like the man’s head has been cut off but there is no blood, a firing squad where you do see blood but not excessive, & threats & challenges; passionate kissing, woman & child walk in on couple fornicating behind makeshift curtain; very brief shadowed nudity, with full male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, cheating & stealing.
In THE WIDOW OF SAINT-PIERRE, a married woman on a French colony near Newfoundland establishes a friendship with a murderer scheduled to be executed. Her husband, the army captain, indulges her efforts to reform the man, whose good deeds make him beloved among the townsfolk. When the captain refuses to execute the man, tragedy results.
THE WIDOW OF SAINT-PIERRE is beautifully filmed and has received superb reviews. The acting is subtle and complex. There is more action than the average French movie, giving it a greater depth. However, the message is depressing and unbiblical. Aside from the obvious anti-capital punishment motif, this woman’s infatuation with the noble savage, Neel, is the ultimate romantic fantasy and an absurd refutation of marriage, dignity, authority, and the other principles of civilization. How critics could think this is an interesting storyline shows the confusion in critical circles. The only moral moments in the movie are at the end when the murderer gets executed and the poor captain is shot by the firing squad. The good news is that justice prevails, although viewers are led to believe that those in authority and the executioners are the villains