To be a woman essentially any time before 1970 was particularly arduous due to certain impossible expectations put upon them, however, being a bourgeois in 1920s France was a particular drag. Or at least that's what comes across in Claude Miller's final film, Thérèse.

Promotional poster for Thérèse

Promotional poster for Thérèse

The heroine of the story, Thérèse Desqueyroux (Audrey Tautou)--which, incidentally was the original title of the movie, understandably shortened--finds herself bored and confused about her place in life after marrying her best friend's brother, Bernard. After spending so much of her youth carefree and full of rebellious potential running through fields and forests with Anne (Anaïs Demoustier), Thérèse is somewhat culture shocked by her banal existence. Anne, meanwhile, engages in a torrid affair with the hired help, Jean Azevedo (Stanley Weber).

Among the fields

Among the fields

Dismayed by Anne's happiness, which puts a glaring light on her own malcontentness (not to mention Bernard's robotic, lackluster moves in their perfectly decorated bedroom), Thérèse, under the guise of doing it at the family's direction, goes behind Anne's back to tell Jean to end it, even though he says he was already planning to anyway. The only thing that pleases Thérèse more than hearing this is him telling her that she must feel so imprisoned being married to Bernard and trapped somewhere as provincial as Landes. Surely, after this encounter, there's a deleted scene in which she masturbates.

In spite of her brief close proximity to a "real man," Thérèse can't stop feeling the fire of dissatisfaction within her belly as she chain smokes and sets the pine forest owned by Bernard's family ablaze. Bernard, who takes four drops of Fowler's Solution (which, fun medical fact, contains arsenic) a day--a prescription for his "condition"--easily loses track of if he took it or not in the wake of the stress of having to put out the fire. Thérèse, naturally, sees this as an opportunity to clandestinely poison him.

Developing a bright idea

Developing a bright idea

True to the novel by François Mauriac, Thérèse is caught for her indiscretion, and punished severely for it. Though, it's not by the courts, which dismiss the case with Bernard's testimony, but Bernard himself, who now derives a vindictive pleasure out of personally giving Thérèse her comeuppance, since he is forced to pretend to remain happily married to her in order to avoid a family scandal. So what does Thérèse teach us that Madame Bovary doesn't? Boredom is a killer, obviously, in both tales, but in Thérèse the way to take vengeance is through attempted murder and subsequent skulking/anorexia as protest. With Madame Bovary, old-fashioned adultery was all you needed to get to your husband's jugular.