Ma Mère

May 19, 2004 0 By Fans
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Based on George Bataille's posthumous and controversial novel: When his father dies, a young man is introduced by his attractive, amoral mother to a world of hedonism and depravity.

Release Year: 2004

Rating: 5.1/10 (2,939 voted)

Critic's Score: 35/100

Christophe Honoré

Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Louis Garrel, Emma de Caunes

Pierre, a youth, comes from his grandmother's in France to stay with his parents in the Canary Islands. His father talks oddly about his lost youth and leaves abruptly for France. Mom promises to take Pierre to a nightclub, remarking that people will think he's her lover. He prays. His father dies in France, and his mother wants him to empty his father's office; Pierre finds it full of pornography. His mother takes him in tow into a night world without morality, a world of sexual exploitation, exhibitionism, and wildness. What will Pierre make of this, and what, ultimately, will he make of his mother?

Writers: Georges Bataille, Christophe Honoré


Isabelle Huppert

Hélène, the Mother

Louis Garrel

Pierre, the Son

Emma de Caunes


Joana Preiss


Jean-Baptiste Montagut


Dominique Reymond


Olivier Rabourdin


Philippe Duclos

The Father

Pascal Tokatlian


Théo Hakola


Nuno Lopes

The Doctor

Patrick Fanik


Susi Egetenmeier

Woman in dunes

Sylvia Johnson

Woman of couple


Official Website:
TLA Releasing [United States] |

Release Date: 19 May 2004

Filming Locations: Canary Islands, Spain

Opening Weekend: $10,334
(15 May 2005)
(2 Screens)

Gross: $70,395
(21 August 2005)

Technical Specs


User Review

The Oedipus Complex with Variations from Novelist Georges Bataille

Rating: 10/10

'Ma mère' is a film on the edge. Director Christophe Honoré (who gave
us the little jewel 'Closer to Leo') has adapted a tough book by
Georges Bataille that explores incest, sadomasochism, love, family
dysfunction, and nebulous moral values of conflicted adolescents caught
in the web of sexual investigation. It is filled with difficult scenes
and ideas and certainly is not a film for the faint of heart or spirit,
but at the same time it is a brave film depicting the dissociative
state of sexual mind to which we've come after the influences of such
thinkers as Bataille, Foucault, Derida, Gide, and others. Christophe
Honoré captures an impossible story extremely well on the screen!
17-year-old Pierre (Louis Garrel of 'The Dreamers') is a spiritually
challenged adolescent home from his Catholic school to be with his
mother Hélène (Isabelle Huppert) whom he idolizes and loves and see his
father (Philippe Duclos) who is distant in every sense. Hélène finds it
necessary to inform Pierre of her background (her husband raped her
when she was very young, causing such anguish that she has become
addicted to a life of immorality as a means of escape), a means of
warning him of what close association with her could mean. Pierre is
blind to all things negative about Hélène and with the news of his
father's death, he demands to be included in the wild sexual life of
Hélène and her female lover Réa (Joana Preiss). Hélène is sexually
attracted to Pierre and elects to include him in her games of voyeurism
(watching Pierre during intercourse with Réa, introducing him to the
shallow and compulsive Hansi (Emma de Caunes), mutilation, and all
forms of debauchery.

The group goes to the sunny islands off Spain where Pierre falls in
love with the dangerous Hansi and follows her lead in learning about
his mother's strange and dangerous proclivities, sexual acts which
include the involvement of young Loulou (Jean-Baptiste Montagut), a
young man whom they torture for the sake of sexual satisfaction. All
the while that Pierre is being introduced into Hélène's bizarre world
he is conflicted by his superego in the form of the Catholic Church: he
is seen reciting catechism in the desert surrounded by a silent, nude
Greek chorus a la Fellini. Ultimately the 'vacation' is over and Pierre
returns home with Hélène and the ultimate incestuous aspect of the
Oedipus complex plays out in a completely bizarre and very dark way. To
say more would destroy the impact of the ending.

Isabelle Huppert is brilliant as always, her quiet outwardly plain
demeanor disguising the profoundly ill soul inside. Likewise Louis
Garrel makes the fragile, gullible, needy and severely conflicted
Pierre understandable: we may not agree with his choices as he wades
through the strange waters of perversion, but we never lose sight of
his vulnerability and passionate need to be loved. There is a lot of
graphic sex in this film, but this particular story could not be told
without it. Christophe Honoré manages this strange tale by letting the
story take us into the realm of the unreal and he never for a moment
loses our interest.

Even the music scoring is substantive, using Samuel Barber's own
setting of his famous 'Adagio for Strings' for the choral 'Agnus Dei',
most appropriately heard when Pierre is mentally visiting his spiritual
conflicts with his corporal deeds. This is clearly not a film for
everyone, but for those who admire the French cinema history of
uncovering strange tales, this is a fine example. In French with
English subtitles. Grady Harp