Review – The Colours of Fire (Couleurs De L’incendie)

There is something poetic about this film. Or perhaps it’s just poetic to see a strong female character take revenge against the men who strong-armed her. Either way, The Colours of Fire is a wonderful dramatic story about how one woman’s life is turned upside down when the most trusted men around her take advantage.

It’s 1927 and Madeleine’s father has just died leaving her a financial empire. Perhaps not ready for the responsibility or too trusting, Madeleine is faced with some decisions that could seal her future. None of this matters when her son Paul, all of 7 years and stricken with grief, attempts to take his own life. Miraculously Paul survives, though never able to walk again.

With the success of finding a carer for Paul after a long search, things start to look up for Paul and Madeleine. That is until the trusted men in her life namely her Uncle Charles and her accountant, Gustave, wish to take advantage of her newly found wealth. First Charles reaches out to Madeleine to see him out of a debt he got into because some cost cutting in building costs eventuated in some expensive accidents. But when Madeleine declined his request, it became personal and took to Gustave for support.

Gustave himself didn’t take being told no so well either. He decided to take advantage of a grieving single woman and force himself upon Madeleine. His grand hope no doubt to access her wealth for his personal gain. However, a slap across the face soon put him in his place. Only this was his motivation to show that if she didn’t want him, she can’t have anything. As such, Gustave set in motion a plan to see Madeleine put all her money in a soon to be failed enterprise while he profited from greatly.

Selling her mansion, letting her staff go and moving to a small apartment on the fifth floor Madeleine and Paul made the most of their new life. That is until Madeleine seeks out her old driver Mr Dupré to assist her in a grand scheme and bring justice to these men who wronged her.

Mr Dupré managed to find enough information for Madeleine to use to her advantage. This propelled her dangerous plan which, using the Hitler led Germany to aid unexpectedly and unwillingly in her master plan to bring down Gustave and his failed venture. Lurking in the shadows Madeleine watched as she orchestrated these men to become embroiled in European political drama they were none-the-wiser about.

The story is from Writer Pierre Lemaitre who is also the writer of the novel, Colours of the Fire (Couleurs de l’incendie), of which he adapted for the screenplay. The scenes are filled with such a very distinct depth clearly benefited from the pages of the novel which were used to describe the smallest of details. This gives the characters, in particular Madeleine, a full arc as she goes to win back all she lost.

Under the Direction of Clovis Cornillac, The Colours of Fire manages to capture a time when women didn’t have the social standing they should have. Cornillac manages to give Madeleine this quiet unsuspecting power in a very delicate way despite the storyline. Cornillac is no stranger to creating an inconspicuously big character. Having directed the final film in the trilogy, Belle & Sebastian 3: Friends for Life. Cornillac is used to focusing on the characters then building the world around them.

Leading actress is Léa Drucker as Madeleine. With almost every emotion you can think of, Drucker manages them all. The beauty of having the book as a basis of her character will no doubt have aided in her performance. There isn’t a moment that can’t be seen or felt in her captivating performance. She navigates a mother and businesswoman through to the mastermind of a grand plot of revenge. The three main layers to her character all combine and as standalone fill every scene as she demands your attention.

This period drama is a visual wonder. The sets of the roaring 20s filled with extravagant mansions, fancy cars and fur coats. All the way through to the bleak, grey Hitler led Germany. The finer details such as the baguette Madeleine pulls from the shopping bag to place on the kitchenette. These details are on point to capture this Parisian lifestyle.

In the classic case of book vs movie, I’ve the feeling it may be they are both excellence of their own. It is however, the detail the film holds that gives it such life. It’s that which manages to hold your interest and not let go. There are a number of intertwining storylines to keep you wanting more until the next scene. It’s clever and well executed and will leave you wondering how Madeleine managed it all.

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