Reactions to Helen and Paul in Le Boucher

Comments on our Discussion of Le Boucher

I value our discussions because I learn so much from other’s perspectives.  Last week was no different.

In retrospect I want to take back my characterization of Helen as “evil.”  That is a George Bush word, that has some religious connotations that I think we should use sparingly if at all.

Having more chance to think, I’d prefer to say that they both went way outside the bounds of virtually universal social norms, and by their behavior caused several innocent people to die.

He did this by actually killing them.  She did this by intentionally suppressing evidence, especially after Paul told her, at least three times, that the killings would surely continue, and after the police virtually begged her to give them a clue, which she certainly had.

Now I’m sure they had reasons for doing what they did, even if we don’t and never will know those reasons.  I think in real life cases like this the actual reasons are rarely, if ever, known.  He seemed to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) from his time in two brutal wars that the French fought.  She obviously had had a devastating relationship or relationships with men, which made her unable to act within social norms.

If we knew those reasons we might say we could forgive them, but that is another religious word we should use carefully especially when we have incomplete understanding.

I’ve been trying to look into my self to understand why I reacted more negatively to her than to him.  Saying that I’m sexist I think is making it far too simple.  Rather I think that Chabrol knew exactly what he was doing when, at the end, she had no blood on her, even though because of all the physical contact she had after Paul stabbed himself, her clothes  surely would have been stained with his blood.

I think that with this lack of blood, Chabrol was telling us that she will get off free.  Paul died, covered in blood.  By contrast she lived with no blood.  I think Chabrol is saying that she will never tell the story that she knows.  She will sill continue to be the well-respected headmistress in the town, maybe even gaining respect depending on how she explains her driving him to the hospital.

I feel sad that he died, I can see him as a victim of what he had been through: a difficult relationship with his father, and two wars.  By his death he “paid” for the murders with his life.  (Just to put the issue aside, I can say that I’m against capital punishment.)

By contrast, I don’t think she will suffer consequences, social ones anyway.  She will have more psychological scars, and she will have to live with those.  If she is ever faced with a similar situation hopefully she will act differently, but we don’t know if she will.

So it is her “getting off” that causes me to feel much more negatively toward her than him.

I’d be interested in any comments anyone has about what they think she might do or what might happen to her after the end of the movie.  That is another mystery that Chabrol has challenged us to figure out.

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