Many inanimate objects have a particular monetary value. Materials used in an item’s development, its demand, or certain components of the market for which it is usually targeted and sold may determine its worth. They may also have a strong sentimental significance, representing a pivotal life changes or nostalgia. A compelling bond with this treasure may also reveal specific yet unexpected aspects of our personal values. In the exquisite French film “The Earrings of Madame de…”, directed by Max Ophuls in 1953, the main characters’ secrets and frustrations evolve through the changing distribution and ties with a pair of earrings.
Louise (Danielle Derreux) and Andre (Charles Boyer) are a seemingly loving, wealthy couple living in late 1800’s Paris. However, there is not an ounce of passion in their marriage, and Louise has accumulated a great deal of debt due to her supreme extravagance. She therefore decides to sell a heart-shaped pair of earrings given to her by her husband for a past wedding anniversary to the original seller and local jeweler, Monsieur Remy (Jean Debucourt). At this point, the earrings have no emotional worth to Louise as they symbolize a reminder of her more hopeful marital past. It is from this point that the earrings begin their geographic and emotional journey, travelling between continents and through the hands of lovers associated with the unhappily married couple. One such admirer is portrayed by acclaimed Italian director and actor, Vittorio de Sica.
The earrings play a crucial role in the plot as indicated in the film’s title. However, the anonymity and ambiguity of Louise’s surname is also essential in understanding her life circumstances. Women always adopted their husbands’ surnames during that era, and the viewer can assume that is Louise’s case. This longstanding custom has often signified an enmeshment of patriarch of the household into the female, melding the more dominant male role into her own identity. As well, the viewer never hears her surname due to clever editing techniques. I feel as if all of these elements convey Louise’s lost individuality, emptiness, and daily guilt. As the main character, many live a life whereby they conceal their true self for fear of persecution, abandonment, and change. This stifling can create extreme tension, snowballing into a constant sense of dread. The context and environment of one’s trepidation may undergo a transformation such that relief and freedom of originality can spur creativity and pure joy, but it may remain such that the least desired outcomes continue to be entrenched in reality.
I do not own the above image.