Le Viol d’une jeune fille douce
(The Rape of a Sweet Young Girl)
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 81 min
Onyx Films Inc.
Julie (Julie Lachapelle), a young woman living in Montreal, discovers she is pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is. Julie’s three brothers, Raphaël (Daniel Pilon), Gabriel (Donald Pilon) and Joachim (André Gagnon), arrive from the country to rescue her and punish the man responsible. While driving out to the country to exact revenge on their chosen victim, they pick up a hitchhiker, whom they take into the bushes and rape while Julie stays in the car. Meanwhile, Julie’s neighbour Susan (Susan Kay) commits suicide. The three brothers locate their (innocent) target, beat him up and take his photograph. After returning to Montreal, Julie has her baby and decides she should get married. The three brothers, meanwhile, are arrested for stealing a car.
Gilles Carle’s second feature (and first in the private sector) is an often witty portrait of both life dehumanized by the values of urban existence and, in Carle’s words, "a normal girl in an abnormal society." The film screened at the Berlin International Film Festival and was critically acclaimed upon its release. Joan Fox, writing in Cinema Canada, called La Viol d’une jeune fille douce "probably the best film ever made in Canada ... the first French-Canadian film to rise above the limitations of a provincial view and attain a textural resonance that places it in a meaningful relation to the international market." Arthur Zeldin, in Macleans magazine, heralded it as "a film to be rated alongside the best produced either in the United States or Europe ... part Godard, part Bonnie & Clyde!"
Like Jean-Luc Godard, Carle uses clever titles to divide the film into sections of a cinematic essay and reduces melodrama to absurdity by depicting how people can remain oblivious to monstrous behaviour – rape, car theft, beatings – while simultaneously obsessed by trivial matters – details about cars, candy and advertising slogans. The wry banality of the dialogue, the mixture of conventions from direct cinema and fiction, and the elliptical style are all very different from Carle’s approach in La Vie heureuse de Léopold Z (1965), but clearly anticipate the style and concerns of his later work.