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LA VEUVE DE SAINT-PIERRE
aka THE WIDOW OF SAINT-PIERRE
USA: Lions Gate Films
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Emir Kusturica, Michel Duchaussoy, Philippe Magnan, Christian Charmetant, Philippe Du Janerand, Catherine Lascault, Ghyslain Tremblay, Yves Jacques, Marc Beland, Maurice Chevit, Raymond Cloutier, Luc Guerin, Anne-Marie Philipe, Dominique Quesnel, Isabelle Spade, Reynald Bouchard
Director: Patrice Lecont
Countries: Canada / France
Language: French (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 112 mins
USA Rated: R for a scene of sexuality and brief violence
UK Certificate: 15 for single scenes of moderate sex and violence
USA Release Date: 9 March 2001 (Limited Release - Los Angeles)
USA Release Date: 2 March 2001 (Limited release - New York)
USA Release Date: 23 February 2001
UK Release Date: 4 August 2000
LA VEUVE DE SAINT-PIERRE is an emotionally-charged romantic epic about an extraordinary woman poised between two extraordinary men at a pivotal moment in time. Set in 1850 on the desolate and intensely beautiful island of Saint-Pieffe, a remote French territory off the coast of Newfoundland, the film is a powerful and provocative examination of grand passions and their consequences. A single twist of fate sets the plot in motion, establishing that the twin forces of character and destiny can work together to alter lives in unexpected and even unimaginable ways.
One night, a man is senselessly murdered during a drunken altercation. The immediately remorseful killer, Neel Auguste (Emir Kusturica) is condemned to death. But in remote Saint-Pieffe, there is neither a guillotine (in old French slang, the guillotine was called "the widow") nor an executioner. The French government promises to remedy the situation but warns that there will be a long wait since a guillotine must be brought from overseas.
During the months that follow, Neel is placed in the custody of the island's enlightened French military commandant (Daniel Auteuil). The Captain's wife (Juliette Binoche), a beautiful, wise, and empathetic woman who is worshipped by her husband and who worships him in return, starts to question the justice of the death penalty in this particular situation as she begins to understand that the prisoner is a decent man who has made a terrible mistake. She makes Neel her protege, convinced that he can live out his remaining time productively and be redeemed by his good deeds. In time, the Captain shares his wife's compassion, insight, and faith in Neel.
Little by little, with the help of his benefactress, the condemned man grows indispensable to this tiny community, His noble and heroic acts, including a dramatic rescue, cause him to become the most popular and the most respected man on the island. Only a handful of narrow-minded bureaucrats resent Neel's new status. Determined to uphold the law, even if the law is wrong, they scheme to punish the murderer and his supporters.
When the guillotine finally arrives and an executioner is found, the Captain's wife frantically tries to stop Neel from being executed. Her passion for justice causes her to risk everything. Her husband, whose passion for his wife is the most powerful force in his life, embraces her mission, knowing that the righteous course they have chosen will lead only to tragedy.