On a disused dredging vessel on a deserted beach, a young man who has just absconded from a mental institution hammers together a letterbox. He waits for letters from his mother that will never arrive. She was raped by American soldiers as a teen and therefore cannot stand the sight of him; the result of that rape. A marriage of convenience with a mild-mannered man hasn't tempered her resentment either.

Hänsel considered this adaptation of the eponymous novel by Yann Queffélec to be the conclusion of a trilogy that started with Le lit. Together with Dust, these films centre on emotionally harrowing events. Les noces barbares unfolds like a true inescapable-fate drama featuring a traumatised woman and her emotionally damaged son who yearns for love. Strong images – from disturbing children's drawings to the sea as a symbol for a mother's comforting lap – enlarge the realism into a more universal tragedy.

International title
The Cruel Embrace
Filmmaker
Marion Hänsel
Country
Belgium, France
Year
1987
Medium
35mm
Length
99’
Language
French
Producer
Marion Hänsel
Production Company
Man's Films Productions
Sales
Cinematek
Writer
Marion Hänsel
Cinematography
Walther van den Ende
Editor
Susana Rossberg
Production Design
Véronique Melery
Sound Design
Henri Morelle
Music
Frédéric Devreese
Cast
Marianne Basler, Thierry Frémont, Yves Cotton, Marie-Ange Dutheil, André Penvern, Frédéric Saurel, Claudine Delvaux