Madame B

2013 | running time 96 min | Colour
By Mieke Bal & Michelle Williams Gamaker

Genre: Theoretical Fiction / Drama
Multi-lingual with English subtitles

DVD package
25 euro for the DVD box, consisting of two disks and a book, and please add 8 euro for international shipping (outside the Netherlands) The package has been designed especially to be useful for teaching, in addition to aesthetically pleasurable.

To acquire a DVD package, you can make a donation to my current film project, Don Quixote: Sad Countenances. You then send an e-mail to with the address where you wish the DVD to be sent. Please also include the details of your transfer (bank account no., name and date of transfer) or a screen shot of the bank statement.

IBAN: NL85ABNA0949591297

Gustav Mahlerlaan 10
1082 PP Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Happiness has a price

Emma, 18, is a free spirit. Living on a sprawling French farm, she spends as much time as possible outdoors, far from the oppressive confines of the homestead. What Emma seeks most of all is an escape not just from the farm but to a life of glamour, passion, and freedom of movement. She first spots an outlet in the form of Charles, a widower from a nearby village. But in everyday life he turns out a bit boring.

She soon seeks passion in a lover, then turns her attention to the allure of money and consumerism, spending lavish amounts on extravagant products. It is a habit that will ultimately lead to her destruction as ruinous debt means all her possessions are auctioned off. The lover she is seeing at this moment of crisis will not help her. When Emma’s attempts to recoup money or secure loans from businessmen, former friends and lovers run cold, her needs turn to desperation and she takes her own life.

Adapted from the legendary, prophetic novel from 1856, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, updated into an ambitious feature film about our own time, Madame B explores the way dominant ideologies from the late nineteenth century – specifically, within the framework of patriarchy, capitalism and its investments in emotions, while love is for sale - are still rampant; today more than ever, perhaps. Capitalism and gender ideology, both luring people with that carrot of the contradictory expectation of permanent excitement, conspire to make individual lives hard, disappointing, and sometimes ruinous. By drawing on classic literature in order to provide an allegory for contemporary mores, the work will offer a radically new interpretation of the text, replete with powerful symbolism that evokes this reimagining. In this way, Madame B questions visually the role of women in a society driven by masculine and capitalist impulses. At the same time, the film explores ways in which cinematic writing can be turned into visual story-telling.

Starring as Emma is Marja Skaffari (Finland). The three men in Emma’s life are played by a single actor, the French Thomas Germaine. This conflation of the three men in one actor expresses the idea that Emma is in love with love, not with anyone in particular. The fact that Emma and her men don’t speak the same language embodies the idea that at any rate, they don’t understand each other. The pharmacist Homais, in our version more criminally nasty than stupid, and obsessively paranoid, is played by French actor Mathieu Montanier. We feel lucky to work again with these three super-gifted actors, who also acted in A Long History of Madness

On the following pages a selection of scene photographs gives an impression of the look of the film; the Cast & Crew page lists the participants.
Scene Photographs
Cast & Crew
See also the multiple screen video installation based on the same work.

Glamour fails to secure happiness: Marja Skaffari as Emma

Thomas Germaine: one actor, three men, all disappointing and disappointed

Mathieu Montanier gives depth to the character of Homais, the destructive pharmacist

Special Screenings
Linnaeus University, Vaxjo, Sweden, during the conference Symbiotic Cinema: Confluences between Film and Other Media (SERCIA’s 24th annual meeting), 8 September 2018
Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, Hungary, May 11, 2018
Humboldt University zu Berlin, Institut für Kulturwissenschaften, at the occasion of the 200th birthday of Karl Marx, 5 May 2018
Luca Art Aacdemy, Brussels, Belgium, 28 February 2018
New York University, The Institue of Fine Arts, 14 November 2017
At conference “Narratology and Its Discontents: Narrating Beyond Narration”, Zagreb, Croatia, 6 April 2017
Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway, 28 and 29 January; 4-5, 11, 18-19, 25-26 feb.; 4-5, 11, 18-19, 26 March; 1-2, 8-9, 15-16 April 2017
Clark Art Institute, Fellows Residence, Williamstown, MA, USA (informal, with discussion) 17 October 2016
Boston, MA, at the conference The Social, International Association of Visual Culture, Boston MA, 29 and 30 September 2016
Dublin, Trinity College, International Conference Deleuze and Art, 10 April 2016
Stockholm University, Department of Culture and Aesthetics, 11 February 2016
Académie de France Villa Medici and Royal Dutch Institute Rome (KNIR), Interculturality Week, Rome, 9 October 2015
Clark Art Institute, Massachussets, 23 September 1015
Barnard College, New York, 15 September 20015
Bergen, Norway, University of Bergen, 2 September 2015
Helsinki Summer School, University of Helsinki, 25 August 2015
“Stadt der Frauern”, Bayerische Staatsoper, June 27, 2015
Culturgest, Lisbon, 22 June 2015
Colloquium “Flaubert – L’image”, Ischia, Castello Aragonese, 14 - 17 May 2015, organised by Flaubert Zentrum Munich and ITEM Paris (screening on May 15)
De Uitkijk, film series Cinema and Philosophy, (with lecture), March 18, 2015
Cine Tonalá, Retrospectiva Fílmica Mieke Bal, 17-20 (18) January 2015
Launch of Frans Zwartjes Manifesto, 9 January 2015
Cultural Centre WORM, Rotterdam, Piet Zwart Institute of the Willem de Koning Academy, 25 November 2014-11-25
Colloquium “Flaubert – Le mot, l’image, le rêve”, Ischia, Castello Aragonese, 30 September - 4 October 2014, organised by Flaubert Zentrum Munich and ITEM Paris
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 11 September 2014, World Première, and 13 September 2014
Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta, Malta, Valletta International Visual Arts (VIVA) Festival, 4 September 2014
Konstrundan Åboland (association of artists), Turku, Finland, 5 may 2014 (sneak preview)
Cinema Bio Savoy, Mariehamn, Åland, Finland, 4 May 2014 (sneak preview)
The Storey, Lancaster (UK), 26 March 2014 (sneak preview)
Leiden University, Academiegebouw, March 14 and 17, 2014 (sneak preview)
Kino Soprus, Tallinn (Estonia), 21 January 2014 (sneak preview)
Collins Cinema, Wellesley, MA (USA), 23 September 2013 (sneak preview)