Can someone who had done a horrible act turn out to be a good person? Is there redemption after sin?
-Review by Darrel Manson

(La Veuve de Saint-Pierre 2000)

This page was created on March 27, 2001
This page was last updated on May 17, 2005

Click to enlargeDirected by Patrice Leconte
Writing credits Claude Faraldo

Juliette Binoche .... Pauline (Madame La)
Daniel Auteuil .... Jean (The Captain)
Emir Kusturica .... Ariel Neel Auguste
Michel Duchaussoy .... The Governor
Philippe Magnan .... President Venot
Christian Charmetant .... Supply and Secretariat Officer
Philippe Du Janerand .... Customs Officer
Reynald Bouchard .... Louis Ollivier
Ghyslain Tremblay .... Monsieur Chevassus
Marc B?land .... Soldier Lo?c
Yves Jacques .... The Rear Admiral
Maurice Chevit .... The Governor's Father
Catherine Lascault .... La Malvilain
Dominique Quesnel .... The Proprietor
Anne-Marie Philipe .... The Governor's Wife
Isabelle Spade .... President Venot's Wife
Jean-Paul Rouvray .... The Priest
Michel Daigle .... Father Coupard

Produced by Fr?d?ric Brillion (producer), Gilles Legrand (producer), Daniel Louis (co-producer), Denise Robert (co-producer)
Original music by Pascal Est?ve
Cinematography by Eduardo Serra
Film Editing by Jo?lle Hache

Rated R for a scene of sexuality and brief violence.
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A stirring drama from French director Patrice Leconte, THE WIDOW OF ST. PIERRE is set in 1850 on the French Canadian island of Saint-Pierre. A fisherman who committed a brutal murder while in a drunken stupor has been condemned to die by the guillotine. Because the town has no guillotine with which to do the deed, an order is put in for one to be sent over from Paris. During the time that it takes for the guillotine to arrive, the fisherman becomes a model citizen, and people begin to reconsider the decision to put him to death. Starring Juliette Binoche, Emir Kusturica, and Daniel Auteuil, most of the film focuses on the friendship that forms between the fisherman (Kusturica) and Binoche as he awaits his death.
Pastor, Artesia Christian Church, Artesia, CA

Can someone who had done a horrible act turn out to be a good person? Is there redemption after sin?

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In The Widow of Saint-Pierre (a French and Canadian production) we see the transformation of Neel Auguste, convicted of murder for taking part in a drunken prank and condemned to the guillotine.
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Because of the remoteness of the island of Saint-Pierre, there is a lengthy wait while a guillotine and executioner can be found and brought to the island.
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During that time, Auguste is shown mercy by Madame La, the wife of the military commander. And in the light of that mercy, he begins helping her and others in the community.
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He risks his life to save another and eventually is taken in by the community as a beloved member.
Click to enlargeBut he is still under the sentence of death. And even though he is given opportunity and encouragement to escape, he refuses to do so because it would bring trouble to the Captain and Madame La. In time, we know that Auguste?s fate has been sealed by his act of irresponsibility, but that the sentence will not be carried out on the same man that did the deed.
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Madame La is the agent of change: in Auguste?s life, in her husband, and even in the community that opened itself to a convicted and confessed murderer.
Click to enlargeCertainly capital punishment is a widely debated issue in the United States (although not in much of the rest of the Western world.) This film helps us to question the appropriateness of capital punishment. Do people change?
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Neel Auguste certainly did. Do we do anything, as Madame La did to bring change into their lives or do we simply seek to punish them and treat them cruelly?
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What are we to do with those who are not the same person who committed the crime?
Not long ago, PBS?s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly ( carried a story on Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Williams is the surviving co-founder of the Crips. He is on death row in California, having been convicted of murder. And he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in preventing children and teens from getting involved with gangs. (For more info on Tookie Williams, see In the story, there were those who told of how much the man has changed and how important he has been in the lives of many. There were others who, because of the severity of Williams? crimes, found the nomination abhorrent and could see him only as a violent, harmful animal. In many ways, Tookie Williams is a present day version of Neel Auguste. And I think there will always be those, who in spite of their sins and crimes, find new life and discover ways of service.
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The film forces us to consider what is right. Everyone in the film is seeking to do what is right. Madame La sees that it right to treat the condemned man decently.
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The bureaucrats understand that it is right to uphold the law.
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The townspeople want to do right by not doing anything to aid in the execution.
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The Captain decided to do what is right by not taking part in the execution, even at great personal cost.
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Auguste, perhaps more than anyone else, strives to do the right thing with his life -- even to the point of facing the gallows.
Click to enlargeAs our society looks at the issue of capital punishment, are there blanket statements about what?s right? And what will we do when we find people who may deserve to die for what they did, but may deserve to live for what they have become?
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Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2001
From: Kim

As with Dead Man Walking, this movie raises yet again the important social/political issue of capitol punishment. As a Christian, I believe absolutely that people can change - that they can take responsibility for their lives, have a true change of heart, and become a new person. However, does a complete change of heart and mind warrant a pardon? Or must the law be satisfied when death is the law? That is the angst of Dead Man Walking, and that is the angst of The Widow of Saint Pierre.

The difference between this movie and Dead Man Walking is that God plays no obvious role in Neel's change. However, Madame La is most definately a Christ figure in that she extends grace and trust to Neel, and sees potential in him that he does not. This transforms him, and transforms the hearts of an entire community. The community of Saint Pierre follows her lead, and decides to give him another chance. They aren't dissipointed. In this way, God is most definately part of the change because love is who He is. As to whether Madame La had a relationship God, we aren't told.

That this story is based on true events is encouraging. Love, acceptance and grace really do change lives. I don't know whether Madame La was a shining portrait of discretion, but she certainly was a shining portrait of grace.

The Widow Of St Pierre 2001 . All Rights Reserved.