Tuesday, 21 June 2016
423 Therese Raquin
First viewed : 12 March 1980
This BBC 2 three-part adaptation of Emile Zola's bleak tale of adultery , murder and revenge from beyond the grave was so good it's hard to understand why it's not more celebrated.
I have to admit it was the nudity that got me and my best friend Michael interested in this at the time although as with The Mallens there was actually less than I "remembered". It was the first time I saw a full frontal nude though she was just an uncredited extra lying motionless in one of the harrowing morgue scenes. I thought there was one where an artist's model walks out to take her position and recall excitedly remarking to another friend "you could see the black triangle ! ". On a second viewing , even with the aid of the pause button, it's cleverly staged so that you don't.* Not that it would have bothered the actress , Zoe Hendry, who had done a fair bit of nude modelling in men's magazines and made revealing appearances in one or two sex comedy films. As for Kate Nelligan in the title role, all you got was a quick shot of barely-lit buttocks and a lot of breast - shielding in the bedroom scenes.
After the scene with Hendry halfway through the middle episode, there was nothing and it was easier to concentrate on the story. Therese is an unhappy young woman who has married Camille, her sickly and self-absorbed cousin who helps his doting mother run a backstreet shop. The highlight of her social life is a weekly game of dominoes in the parlour with their friends, mainly boring old men. Things brighten up when Camille's colleague Laurent joins the circle and starts taking time off work to bonk Therese in the afternoons. When his boss stops this Therese proposes they murder Camille which they do but neither are prepared for the psychological consequences.
Though subject to budget constraints this is marvellously staged with the dark poky sets mirroring emphasising Therese's feelings of being cooped up. The appearances of the dead Camille are absolutely terrifying and a tribute to the make-up artist Jean Speak.
The cast too is brilliant. Besides Nelligan , it had Brian Cox as Laurent, Kenneth Cranham as Camille and a young Alan Rickman as Laurent's arrogant artist friend. Pride of place though must go to Mona Washbourne as the mother-in-law. She discovers the truth after suffering a paralytic stroke and so can only act with her eyes in the final scenes but is absolutely riveting.
* In my defence I was watching that episode bereft of my glasses which had been lost when I was knocked to the ground after attending a gig by the school punk band the previous Friday.