Mississippi Mermaid / La Sirène du Mississipi (1969)

This film is a story about love in its most pure, dark, unrelenting and unconditional form. Watching it proved to not only be a pleasure, but a profound experience. It genuinely took me by surprise, as on the surface it appears to be just a generic thriller/drama about deception and revenge. A man, Louis, marries a woman Julie, whom he has never met before and the twist is that she’s actually a stranger who has stolen the real fiancée’s identity in order to rob Louis of his fortune. Sound familiar? I kept thinking it reminded of Angelina Jolie’s Original Sin and funnily enough, as it turns out, Original Sin was actually a direct remake of this film. Seems so obvious in hindsight that I can’t help feeling a bit dumb.

Now, on the surface you would just think the entire premise was fake-Julie seducing Louis and then robbing him, but that actually just works as the prelude to the real story that begins to unfold after Louis discovers he’s been duped and robbed. You see, after the ugly truth is revealed, Louis meets the real Julie’s sister, who has arrived to look for her disappeared sister and the two together end up hiring a detective to track the fake-Julie down. At this point you might assume that the remaining story revolves around fake-Julie being hunted before finally getting caught but again you’d be wrong. It just so happens, a bit ironically, that Louis himself by sheer accident finds fake-Julie first, not that long after hiting the detective. Hungry for retribution, Louis chooses to set out alone to seek revenge for her betrayal rather than alarm the authorities. And here’s where the film gets absolutely riveting: rather than following his plan to kill fake-Julie, or Marion as we now learn her real name to be, Louis instead ends up eloping away with Marion, as he has realized that he’s in love with Marion, and vice versa. It’s a dazzling turn of events and quite powerful source of intrigue. You’re suddenly drowning with questions. What will happen next, will they find happiness together, is she truly trustworthy, what about the detective seeking her, etc.

It’s not very long before we start to get answers to these questions as their new runaway life together hits a snag almost as fast as it was rekindled. During one particular afternoon stroll at the nearby town, not far from where Marion and Louis have built their new love nest, Louis  stumbles into the very private detective that he, together with Julie’s sister, had hired to track Marion. Panicked, Louis attempts to flee but fails to lose his tail, resulting in a gripping stand off between the two men. A heated exchange ensues, as Louis foolishly tries ttslk his way out of it to no avail. After the P.I. refuses to be bought off, we see Louis fall deeper into the abyss of twisted love as he murders the private detective, forcing Marion and Louis once again to flee.

Though deeply devoted to each other, the mix of low finances and the constant looming threat of the law catching up to them takes its toll on the lovers and creates a visible gap between them, resulting in the astonishing dénouement of the film. Like I already stated at the beginning, the film is about love. Love in its most absolute form. Nothing conveys it better than the ending where Louis, on his sickbed, reveals to Marion that he knows that she has been slowly poisoning him. The way he realizes what was happening in itself is a brilliant scene: suffering from the side-effects of the poison souring through his veins, he by accident stumbles into a newspaper comic strip of Disney’s Snow White depicting the scene where the Queen, in the guise of the old woman, is poisoning Snow White with the apple. It’s such an elegant and simple, yet immensely powerful moment as Louis figures out the cold, crushing truth.

And only now do we get to the really stunning portion of the ending. Rather than being mad, Louis instead seems entirely content, freely accepting Marion’s desire to kill him. When Marion then returns to the house, Louis confront her, and delivers Mario a very moving declaration of undying love as well as his willingness to die for her. And here’s what is so damn alluring and absolutely amazing about the ending: Marion, rather than going through with her plan to murder the now willing Louis, she instead completely breaks down and also vows eternal love back to Louis. you see, they both are so in love with each other that even when they reveal their deepest, darkest secrets and most vile transgressions, they are able look past them and accept one another unconditionally. Even straight up betrayals and murderous intent fails to faze them. Were it not so twisted, it’d be positively beautiful. And that is why the final scene of the film is so moving: we simply see both Louis and Marion walking side by side in the winter snow, continuing their attempt to flee from the law. Together, resolute, happy. Both completely silent, as there is no need to speak. They love each other and that will sustain them till the very end of the world. It’s an exquisite finale.

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