WHIRLPOOL OF FATE (1925)
aka La fille de l’eau
Article 4663 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Jean Renoir
Featuring Catherine Hessling, Charlotte Clasis, Pierre Champagne
What it is: Drama
Upon the death of her father, a young woman loses her inheritance to her wastrel uncle, and ends up taking up with gypsies. However, she is also abandoned by them and finds herself all on her own.
Since there’s no mention of it in the plot description, let’s get the fantastic content out of the way first. At one point in the proceedings, the woman, alone and sleeping outside during a thunderstorm, has a hallucinatory nightmare that we get to experience as well, and it’s bizarre enough that, for that sequence, the movie turns into a fantasy. As for the movie as a whole, I regret to say it’s one of those types of stories of which I’ve grown tired of encountering. It is, in fact, a “wringer” movie. Those are movies in which our lead character (usually a young woman) is put through the wringer by having a continuous series of bad events and setbacks happen to her. These movies can be effective at times, but I find them frustrating; you just know the worst is going to happen, and if anything good DOES happen, you know she’s only being set up to have the next bad thing take it all away. After a while, these movies seem rather mechanical, and the only real suspense comes from not knowing whether the movie is going to end in an upbeat fashion (bad things stop happening to her) or a downbeat fashion (she dies or suffers some other irreparable fate), and it pretty much comes down to what the writer or director decides to do. I can’t say I really enjoyed this movie all that much, but it does have some nice visual moments, and I did find the hallucinatory dream (the highlight of the movie for me) to be effective. And I won’t tell you which ending the powers that be opt for in this one.