Manon des Sources
Release Year: 1986
Director: Claude Berri
Writers: Claude Berri (screenplay), Gérard Brach (screenplay), Marcel Pagnol (novel Manon des Sources)
Starring: Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Béart, Hippolyte Girardot, Magarita Lozano, Yvonne Gamy, Elisabeth Depardieu
The shy and beautiful shepherdess Manon (Emmanuelle Béart) decides to avenge her father when she learns that two local farmers diverted the source that ran over his land, which led to his bankruptcy and death.
Set in rural Provence in the beginning of the 20th century, this wonderful French period drama is an adaptation of a story from playwright, novelist, and auteur Marcel Pagnol. Technically, Manon des Sources is an adaptation of the second part of a story, the first part being the Jean de Florette (1986), but it is possible to watch Manon des Sources as a standalone film if you do not mind learning major plot points from Jean de Florette. The story revolves around water, a precious commodity in the dry hills of southern France. Our main characters are Cesar Soubeyran (“Le Papat”), played by Yves Montand (Le salaire de la peur, 1953), and his nephew Ugolin, played by Daniel Auteuil (Caché, 2005). The two are the last of a once influential local family and they make a decent living from growing carnations, something that is only possible because of access to a source that is not rightfully theirs (see Jean de Florette). The daughter of the source’s rightful owner, Manon, lives a harsh life as a sheperdess. She is renowned by the locals for her beauty but little else, as she is shy and keeps to herself. Ugolin develops a passion for her after spotting her bathing in the mountains and set out to win her heart. Manon on the other hand is about to learn a secret which will drive her towards a vengeance that will change the life of Cesar and Ugolin forever. The story is captivating and the rural life is beautifully realised with unforgettable characters. Especially Montand is great as the ageing head of a dwindling family, while Auteuil does not shy away from exposing the weaknesses and vileness of Ugolin. Despite being anti-heroes, they have our sympathy. A French classic that will appeal to anyone who loves period and family dramas, but we advice you watch Jean de Florette (1986) first to get the full effect. Highly recommended.
Yves Montand was raised in the area where the film is set and was a friend of the then late Marcel Pagnol on whose work the film is based. Even so he first refused the role of Papet. It was presumable his wife who persuaded him to accept it. She later died during production of the film.
Picture Copyright: Pathé