Wednesday, 21 March 2018
The Earrings of Madame de..., or sex, lies, and earrings
The Earrings of Madame de... has 2 main themes: the 1st one is a pair of earrings changing hands and changing meaning—the earrings are an action prop, a device, a symbol, and in some ways, like a character, the subject of the film.
- at the start belong to the jeweller
- go to Madame de’s husband, the general (he buys them the 1st time)
- go to Madame de
- go back to the jeweller
- go to the general (buying them the 2nd time)
- go to his mistress
- go to Constantinople
- go to the Italian diplomat (who later becomes Madame de’s lover)
- go back to Madame de
- return to the jeweller
- go back to the general (buying them the 3rd time)
- go to Madame de’s niece
- return again to the jeweller
- return to Madame de
- go to a church
It is a silly plot, developed from a ridiculous premise, especially with the coincidence (mentioned in my previous blog post). However, the ridiculous premise leads to the delicious set-up of a man giving a pair of earrings to the woman he loves, only to realise later that the earrings previously belonged to her and were her husband’s present after the wedding. The scene is well acted and wonderfully done. The realisation is twofold—that the object he sees as a beautiful demonstration of love for Madame de already has another meaning, a connection with the other man in her life; and that she has lied. Which of the realisations has struck him harder?
It leads to the other theme of The Earrings of Madame de...—the film is about lies, games, and secrets. At the beginning of the film, Madame de lies about losing the earrings, her husband knows the truth but feigns ignorance and plays along with her lies. The jeweller has a secret with Madame de, but betrays the secret by telling the husband, thus creating a new secret between the husband and himself.
Later, in order to wear the earrings in public, Madame de lies to both men at the same time. To her husband, she lies by carrying on with her previous lie and setting up the scene of finding the earrings, as she doesn’t know that her husband knows. To her lover, she lies that she lied to her husband about getting the earrings from a relative. The difference is that Madame de is dishonest to her husband, but her lie to the lover comes from sincere feelings and the concealment is motivated by her wish to wear in public what she sees as a symbol of her love, and not to hurt the man. However, Madame de is a good liar but an unlucky one. She lies because she doesn’t think that the lover would ever find out the truth, and because she doesn’t know that the husband knows she lied—because when he was joining in her game, he was lying (even though it’s an acceptable lie—it’s a lie not to deceive, but to hide the speaker’s knowledge of truth and to protect the jeweller). The husband consciously or unconsciously continues with his lying when she “finds” the earrings again—he is shocked and puzzled, but doesn’t say it, thus not letting her know that he knows. Because she doesn’t know, she goes on with her lie when the lover pretends not to know the truth, and when questioned, Madame de corrects the lie with another lie, before being forced to confess the truth.
That is, I haven’t mentioned that having affairs is betrayal and deception.
Ultimately, the film is not really about the earrings, but about the web of lies. In that sense, it is subtle, and an excellent film.