Madame B.

My new film project with Michelle Williams Gamaker explores the unspeakable but tenacious remnants of romantic sensibility that still hold back women today, combined with the emotional tentacles of capitalism that bring families to bankruptcy.

Inspired by Flaubert’s masterpiece Madame Bovary, the unspoken cultural politics of the cultivation of craving compels us to pursue our search for what in contemporary society is still being silenced. Having made films on issues around migration, such as the status of “illegal” immigrants, enforced identities, unnoticed cultural transformations and the loss of domestic life, we have turned to “madness” as the last frontier that separates people living in the same social environment.

All along, the films were motivated by a strong sense of implication. We established a relationship of trust with our subjects, so that the films thrived on intimacy and emanated a sense of collaboration, a feeling of being in the situations together. Now, we feel, the next step is to examine how social silencing affects us all, so that no groups exist exempt from negative social pressures. All emancipation movements in the world cannot fight the constant pressure to believe in those forces that keep society normalised. The forces of romantic love that continuously reformats lives into nuclear families, go hand in hand with those of late capitalism that pushes people towards the purchase of unnecessary goods and in the end, unsolvable debt. The two conspire to make especially women vulnerable to this relentless road to frustration, leading to the endangerment of their lives, or at least, their wellbeing. One hundred and fifty years ago, Flaubert prophetically described that current crux of disillusionment and financial crisis in exact detail.

There is a long list of Madame Bovary films, and it is not our goal to add to that list. Instead, we reconsider Flaubert’s prophetic vision of the tenacity of this conspiracy of forces, of the complicity between religiously informed family ideology and capitalist cultivation of desire for luxury, to understand how it still works today. We firmly position it in the present Western world, in our own environment. We aim to probe the way this works, without leaving anyone aloof from such pressures as do damage to individual lives as well as to society.

Marja Skaffari & Thomas Germaine
Marja Skaffari & Thomas Germaine
The project is still progess; it will be a year at least until we can begin exhibiting. We are dreaming of a very visual film, with as little dialogue as possible. We want to repeat the pleasure of working with two fantastic actors, Marja Skaffari (Finland) and Thomas Germaine (France). Marja, who is such a brilliant Sissi in A Long History of Madness, will enact the constantly increasing frustration generated by the lures of unattainable bliss in the life of Emma. Thomas, who has enacted three different men in that film, the husband and the two lovers, will be all those disappointing men in Madame B.’s life.

In order to fund this project we request donations, or if you like, offer shares in this project. For donations of €25 or more, you receive a copy (or multiple copies) of the special DVD box of A Long History of Madness. This box contains the 120-minutes film, and a second disc with 140 minutes of various bonus items, including a serious introduction to the film, a hilarious “Making of” segment, interviews between the main actors, and scenes that didn’t make it into the film.

For more information, please view our promotional fundraising trailer for Madame B.

How to become an official supporter of Madame B.:

1) Make a donation by bank transfer to our project account at the University of Amsterdam:

UvA-Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
Reference: WBS element “C.2022.0056.1: Mieke Bal” (very
important to add this!)
IBAN Code : NL17 ABNA 0446 6074 60

Bank address
Dam 2
1012 NP Amsterdam
The Netherlands

2) Send us an e-mail detailing your support (date of transfer, reference and amount), so that we know to send you the DVD. Please include your postal address in your message, which can be sent to:

We are very grateful for your support!

Mieke & Michelle

(Cinema Suitcase)

The Mère Folle Project

This is an ongoing long-term project with Michelle Williams Gamaker. Its centrepiece is a two-hour feature film described as a ‘theoretical fiction’. The film deals with madness, psychoanalysis and intergenerational trauma. The film asks: if your mentally ill patient dies, are you to blame?

For Dr Françoise Davoine, Parisian psychoanalyst, this question becomes disturbingly real as one of her patients, Ariste, dies. Davoine is abducted and put on trial by mediaeval fools and through the course of one hellish night - across several centuries and countries – must argue her case for exoneration.

The reason this project is mentioned here is that the Mère Folle project also includes installations, publications, talks and exhibitions, each dealing with madness and society, the potential of psychoanalysis and the social stigmatisation of insanity. We have just opened the 5th exhibition within this project. In September, another one, this time very different, will open at the Freud Museum London. Read more.