Director: DAVID LEAN

U.K • 1950 • BLACK AND WHITE • 114 MIN.

‘Madeleine Smith, you have heard the indictment: were you guilty or not guilty?’ Based on a famous case in Glasgow in 1857, which was also the inspiration behind one of Wilkie Collins’ finest novels, The Law and the Lady, the titular heroine is an ostensibly respectable young woman accused of poisoning her French lover. Anticipating The French Lieutenant’s Woman (both novel and film) in its dramatisation of a sexual liaison that scandalised society and its implicitly modern perspective, Madeleine is a searching examination of the superficial respectability of victorian society and the passion and hypocrisy it precariously represses, then releases. the French lover could almost be the product of the heroine’s imagination. As played by Ann todd, whose surface frost and English-rose exterior always seemed to hold out the promise of hidden depths, Madeleine is the most mysterious of Lean’s heroines and the focus of his most enigmatic ending. William Alwyn’s score is Lean’s most richly romantic since Rachmaninov.

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