Melanie Laurent Spotlights Female Empowerment in Toronto-Premiering ‘The Mad Women’s Ball’

"The world is changing fast these days, and it's not headed in the right direction: We've left behind women in Afghanistan where they risk being raped every four seconds and everywhere in the world there are still women who are beaten to death," says the director.
The ambitious period movie marks Amazon's first French movie original. Melanie Laurent, one of France's most acclaimed actors-turned-filmmakers, has been having a banner 2021, headlining Alexandre Aja's hit Netflix movie "Oxygene," sitting on Spike Lee's Cannes jury, and world premiering her sixth directorial effort "The Mad Women's Ball" at Toronto.
Although the film is set in the 19th century, Laurent says it's "very modern to talk about women who are silenced and called crazy." "I'm under the impression that the more power women have today and the more they are called crazy or hysterical," she says.
"The Mad Women's Ball" is the first film that Laurent directs for a streaming service. The French studio was initially set to co-produce and distribute the film in France, but the pandemic hit and the project needed a deep-pocketed partner to get greenlit. Amazon Prime Video boarded the project after Gaumont had been involved.
"I've often been told I was crazy, for a long time, because I try to do a lot of different things. It's just the idea of seeing me get out of my little box of actress and try to accomplish other things. It's true that a woman who dares to venture into too many projects always raises suspicion, but we're capable of so much!" says Laurent, adding that she's never seen a male filmmaker bring his kids on set for more than five minutes whereas their female counterparts do it and can juggle.
The latest wave of feminism has also led to a surge of hostility towards outspoken women, says Laurent, who admits she's often been called crazy herself for taking on too much.
Women could have made more discoveries in sciences, they could have done so many things, but they were silenced," says Laurent, adding that she was compelled by the cinematic appeal and complexity of Mas' book. "Through history, women who have tried to make society progress were often not allowed to and they didn't have access to knowledge like men, so they found other ways to learn things on their own.
"I think on this subject, on this film, that's what I wanted."” /> "I would have been unhappy to see the film come out in theaters and pulled away from screens after a week or two; whereas with Amazon, it's rolling out in 240 countries, on the same day and at the same time," Laurent says.
After her family discovers her secret, she is taken to the hospital, where she bonds with a nurse, Geneviève (Laurent). Alain Goldman and Axelle Boucaï at Legende Films (“La vie en rose”) produced the film. Their encounter will change both their futures as they prepare for Charcot’s ball. Lou de Laâge, who starred in Laurent's sophomore outing "Breathe," plays Eugénie, a young, radiant and passionate woman who discovers at a young age that she has the special power to hear the dead.
She has a star demeanor with a mind-blowing beauty and she also has this intelligent look in her eyes and a vulnerability while having this big voice; so we can't put her in any box," says Laurent, adding that de Laâge brings modernity and boldness to the character of Eugénie. Laurent also praises de Laâge for her singularity and her performance in "a role that was made for her." "She's an actor with such a huge potential and she's often cast by directors, often male ones, as the pretty woman, but she can do so much more.
She says her baby daughter was on the set of "The Mad Women's Ball" every day, which made her feel "fulfilled" and gave her the "mental strength" she needed on the shoot.
"We were ready to make this film for theaters and were preparing the film with Gaumont and TV channels, but then the second wave began, and it became complicated and very stressful for financiers; we were starting to feel that there would be a clutter of releases and we feared we couldn't find a good slot to release the film in theaters," says Laurent.
Laurent ("Inglourious Basterds,""Beginners") shot the film when her long-gestated Sony project "The Nightingale" with Elle Fanning and Dakota Fanning saw its production halted due to the pandemic.
Laurent says that although the idea of adapting Mas' novel came from her producer (Goldman), she had a desire to direct a period film about "witches in the Middle-Age, a film that could be described as 'eco-feminist.'"
"After reading 'Le Bal des folles,' I was horrified as I realized women have been oppressed at different periods, either the clergy, or the field of medicine, or our male-dominated society," says Laurent.
The helmer says she was given complete creative freedom by Amazon Prime Video and its head of originals, Thomas Dubois."[Dubois] never came on set or in the editing room; he just told me to be as radical as I wanted, so I felt more free than on any other film," says Laurent.
The action unfolds at the Salpêtrière hospital where such women, diagnosed with different kinds of nervous system disorders, were confined and put under the supervision of neurologists such as Jean-Martin Charcot. Each year, a prestigious ball was organized with the patients and attracted the Parisian elite; it was a place to see and be seen. Based on Victoria Mas' award-winning novel "Le Bal des folles," "The Mad Women's Ball" takes place at the end of the 19th century in Paris, at a time when women deemed too rebellious or difficult were frequently labeled as insane and institutionalized.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *