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Therese Synopsis

Rich parents are not everything. Therese is alone. She gambles on marriage when the chance arises, and lands in court on a murder charge.


Bordeaux France, 1952

Therese is not normal. She's not fun and has no friends. She finds everything and everyone too boring. She is simple, proud and shy. The nuns at school shrugged and prayed for her. Walking in the woods and reading by the fire are her joys. She is 19.

Unfortunately, Paul is normal. Drinking with gusto, betting on the horses and chasing the girls are his joys. He rages like there's no tomorrow. He has just finished his military service. He is 19.

It does not matter. Both are heirs to a large wine fortune. The parents are very rich and well connected. Everything is at their fingertips. The idea of ​​a merger and thus a marriage occurs to them. Therese and Paul are duly married, despite their misgivings. That is a gamble. The honeymoon in Spain was …difficult.

Therese despises and avoids life as usual. Paul rages as always. One night Paul returns home very drunk. He can barely climb the stairs. He wants sex with violence, Therese doesn't.

The next morning, the maid steps over Paul who is lying in his vomit on the stairs. Drunk as always! Hours later, Paul has not moved. The maid discovers he's dead. The police are called. A suspicious death with some marks, they say.

The autopsy reveals that Paul drowned in his vomit. Marks on the body correspond to a slight fall: not enough to stun or kill. With that, the police end the case.

But Paul's parents are furious. Of course, it's murder! Therese must have pushed him away, down the stairs! The police must start a murder case against Therese! The parents know the senator of the province. He knows the prefect of the department. He knows the police inspector.

The case is opened before an examining magistrate. The police present the matter without heart; the evidence is minimal. Therese is her own worst enemy. She fidgets and doesn't pay attention. It is too boring. Yet, a murder conviction means death by guillotine. Counsel for Paul’s parents requests to address the court. He demands that Therese confesses. The court falls silent. Therese denies pushing Paul down the stairs and shrugs. And denies it again. No confession or regret emerges, no telling forensic evidence, no strong motive and no witnesses.

Eventually the judge dismisses the case. He finds no charge against Therese. The forest, the fireplace and the books welcome her back home.

Adapted from the film Therese Desqueyroux by Georges Franju.


A man’s a man wrote Berthold Brecht. That covers it for Peter Wright, now author.


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