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.