Don’t Deliver Us from Evil (1971)

Loosely based on the Parker–Hulme murder case of 1954 (which also inspired Heavenly Creatures), Don’t Deliver Us from Evil is about Anne de Boissy and Lore Fournier, two post-pubescent Catholic schoolgirls that come from rich, conservative families. They’re both growing up to be maniacs, thanks to a love of death poetry, mocking people, pranks, petty theft and one another.

They believe that when they are together, they are special and beyond the law, which allows them to escape punishment. Anne’s parents go on vacation and leave her at home, which allows Lore to move in and their love affair to grow. Their pranks also grow, including setting fire to a perverted farmer’s house, killing all of the birds of the school’s groundskeeper and stealing the Eucharist and performing a Black Mass where they marry themselves to Satan.

There’s a really off juxtaposition in the film where the girls use their sexuality to be adults and when men take it too far, they instantly appear to be what they are — really young girls. It’s disquieting and upsetting in a way that no movie I’ve ever seen has pictured — before or since.

For example, when the girls attempt to seduce a motorist, he takes it as an invitation to rape Lore. Anna saves her and murders the man, who they dump in the river. A detective begins asking questions and the girls are sure they will be discovered, so they enter into a suicide pact. They know that when they go to Hell, Satan will reward them for their service.

In front of their entire school, they read a Baudelaire poem to a cheering crowd before lighting themselves on fire.

This film was known as “the French movie banned in France.” It lives up to its controversial reputation — one assumes that the film was near incendiary when it was originally released. Yet it’s not strictly an exploitation film. It’s quite beautifully shot and has a definite message against the censorship of the Catholic Church and unfairness of the French class system.

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