Les Enfants Terribles (film)

Les Enfants Terribles
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Produced by Jean-Pierre Melville[1]
Screenplay by
Based on Les Enfants Terribles
by Jean Cocteau
Cinematography Henri Decaë[1]
Edited by Monique Bonnot[1]
Release dates
  • March 29, 1950 (1950-03-29) (Paris)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
Country France

Les Enfants Terribles ("The terrible children") is a 1950 French film directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and based on Jean Cocteau's novel of the same name. The first feature film of Melville, Le Silence de la Mer (1949), attracted the attention of Jean Cocteau, who commissioned him to direct the film version of Les Enfants Terribles.


Élisabeth looks after her bedridden mother and is very protective of her teenage brother Paul, who has been injured in a snowball fight at school and has to rest in bed most of the time. The siblings are inseparable, sleeping in the same room, fighting, playing secret games, and rarely leaving the house. Paul’s friend, Gérard, often drops by to stay with them. When the mother dies, Élisabeth becomes a model for a couturier, where she meets Agathe and brings her home to live with them. The shy girl bears a strong resemblance to Dargelos, a schoolboy whom Paul had a crush on and the same boy who injured him. Paul and Agathe are immediately attracted to each other but neither can declare it, fearing Élisabeth's reaction.

She has met a rich businessman who she marries, but he dies days after in a road accident, leaving her his mansion and fortune. She brings Paul, Agathe and Gérard to live with her. Paul decides he must tell Agathe he loves her and posts a letter, which Élisabeth destroys when it arrives. She then pushes Gérard and Agathe into marrying each other, so they move out and she has Paul to herself. Gérard visits them with a present from Dargelos of an exotic poison, a subject that had fascinated the two at school. Having lost Agathe and now a virtual prisoner of Élisabeth, Paul in despair takes the poison. When Agathe visits him on his deathbed, they discover how Élisabeth had destroyed their love. To ruin their reconciliation and to avoid being on her own, Élisabeth shoots herself in front of them. Paul then dies, leaving the traumatised Agathe with the two bodies.



Les Enfants Terribles was shot on Location in Paris (Société nationale des entreprises de presse, Theatre Pigalle), Montmorency (seaside shoplifting scene), and Ermenonville (Michael's car accident scene).[2] The car accident scene was directed by Cocteau as Melville was ill for the shooting day.[2] Melville claims that Cocteau followed his directing instructions "to the letter."[2]


Les Enfants Terribles was released in Paris on 29 March 1950.[1] The film did not gross as high as Melville's previous film Le Silence de la mer.[3] In Paris, the film took in 255,224 admissions and 719,844 admissions in France as a whole.[3]




External links

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