Séverine: uncompromising?

The reason I watched Belle de Jour last Friday was because my father told me he thought Séverine should be on my list of uncompromising women. I was glad for the excuse, and admired the movie a lot. But while I think Deneuve's character is indeed strong and fascinating, is she really uncompromising?

Oh, she goes after her own desires, yes. She does not conform to society's norms, sure. But she wants to. What's more, (and worse), is that she doesn't take responsability for her actions, in fact claims that she's pushed by something beyond herself. This is not just because she relishes being out of control: it's because she cannot, even in the end, accept herself.

This is most clearly seen in the scene where she is confronted with Henri Husson, the man who gave her the address of the surprisingly fashionable brothel where she is now employed. At first, she blames him for leading her there, as if she had no say in it herself. Then, she says:

"Je suis perdue. Ça se passe malgré moi. Je ne peux pas résister. Je sais qu'un jour il faudra que j'expie pour tout ce que j'ai fait, mais sans ça je ne pourrais pas vivre."

(freely translated):

"I am lost. It happens in spite of myself. I cannot resist. I know one day I will have to atone for all that I've done, but without this I could not live."

The crux is in the sentence I italicized. She takes refuge in saying she simply cannot help herself. And that's why Séverine, while she is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating women ever put on screen, is not truly uncompromising.

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