The 1001 movies list contains films of all kinds. Romances and westerns, comedies and horror. It’s even got some core science fiction on it.
Madame de… (translated into English as The Earrings of Madame de...) defies easy classification. If you go by the plot, it’s obviously a melodrama, especially considering the ending.
But that would be an oversimplification. The story is told in a way that would work much better for a romance even bordering on a romantic comedy, with an absurd coincidence involving a pair of earrings driving the twists and turns of the plot.
We see a love triangle in which a man of action is forced, by the indiscretions of his wife to first enter denial and then acceptance of the realities of their marriage. He responds in truly the only way open to him… with melodramatic results.
So the light frivolity of a period romance and the serious underlying reality occur in parallel with the result that the film never achieves the weighty, ponderous tension of true melodrama. The audience is carried lightly from scene to scene, more interested in the weird perambulations of the earrings than in the disintegrating relationship underlying everything.
Until it explodes in an obvious but still unexpected denoument.
Bringing an audience to the end the director did without making it obvious (despite there being very few other possibilities) is an act of genius, and Max Ophüls is to be commended.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer whose literary fiction is collected in Love and Death, a novel told in short story form which follows the intertwined lives of a dozen people who experience both love and death and show once again that these are the only two things worth writing about. You can check it out here.