This film is also about a Madam Bovery named Gemma (played by Gemma Arterton) who comes to live in a village near Rouen with her husband Charles (Neils Schneider).
The similarities are marked: both the novel and the film are set in France; Emma (the original Madame Bovary) and Gemma are equally bored second wives of older men and enliven their existences with multiple affairs; and neither has a happy ending. However, if it weren’t for character of Martin, (Fabrice Luchini) the village baker, the film would be merely an amusing sexual romp around rural France.
But Martin, playing the part of narrator and nearest neighbour, adds a new perspective to the original story; that of voyeur. He came to the village from Normandy with his wife and son looking for a peaceful and balanced life but meeting Gemma was ‘The end of ten years sexual tranquillity.’ She disturbs his peace of mind and excites his imagination as he follows her antics with various lovers in the village.
Forced to realise she prefers golden young men to his more mature presence, he displaces his sexual tension by believing it is his duty to prevent Gemma suffering the same end as Flaubert's Emma Bovary. Drawing inspiration from events in the novel, Martin sets about averting what he thinks will be the ruin and death of Gemma, but inadvertently causes another set of problems which twist and turn the book’s plot surprisingly, combining tragedy and comedy in the film to the very end.
Gemma Bovery is now showing at FACT. Click here to book tickets.