The premise of an object (jewellery) as a motif and catalyst in multiple contexts to reveal the infidelities and tragedies of a variety of characters echoes the fall from grace of societal elites in Renoir's 'La Regle du Jeu'. One can empathise more with these humane if trivial protagonists. Ophüls has a skill in making you care for characters who may be unlikeable on paper.
Like Mizoguchi, Ophuls's best films are haunted by the dread of a fall from grace; death -here, in "Letter From An Unknown Woman" and the death promised at the end of "Lola Montes"- follows but underlines the greater social death of social disgrace. A film about the endless exchange of goods at the expense of their owners, and the vampiric consumption of people by the cruel society that their possessions represent.
Rich and sumptuous melodrama about a Countess who sells a pair of earrings to cover a debt, telling her husband a little white lie to hide her small shame, and in the process sets off a domino effect as the earrings continue to come back to haunt her, trapping her in a web of her own lies. Opulent and brilliantly scripted, the film is a profound reflection on inescapable consequences of dishonesty.
Anchored by august performances, "The Earrings of Madame De…" is a phenomenal and sophisticated masterclass in filmmaking, featuring some of the best camerawork and stage direction in the history of cinema. Much in the vein of Orson Welles and Douglas Sirk, Max Ophuls lets the set pieces create the melodrama while ably using the exquisite dialogue to create a claustrophobic succession of impeding doom.
Maybe Ophuls's camera at his most clever. Maybe the key of capturing the balancing act of wit and dramatic despair is being restraint...??? But anyway, this movie, though is more restraint that his other movies, contains a love triangle that burns harder with every frame! I pined for Madame De as her struggles of doing the heart's content conflict with the bullshit social structure. The final shot killed me!