By Natalia Messmer
Since I have read Guy de Maupassant’s novel Bel Ami, I was curious and impatient to see the ecranisation. I enjoyed the story (brought to life by Declan Donnellan in 2012) very much. Not being a fan of Robert Pattinson, I, nevertheless, can say: the director could not find a better actor for the role.
Georges Duroy (Pattinson) is a young soldier returning from war. He chooses Paris as starting point for his career but without proper education and useful connections his perspectives are quite grim. Working as a railway clerk, he wishes for better fortune. When an army acquaintance Forestier offers Duroy to write for newspaper La Vie Francaise, the young man takes the chance.
Learning on the job begins. Duroy’s ambitions, however, are not enough for being a good journalist. Yet there is another way to make a career… Georges’ “secret powers” come into play: no woman can resist his seductive techniques. Charmed by young man’s wit, Madeleine Forestier, the editor’s wife, helps Duroy with his first steps in media and social life.
A brilliant acting team brings life and excitement to the novel: there is Madeleine Forestier (Uma Thurman), a gorgeous woman, who has to stay in shadow of her husband, but hungry for professional recognition. There is Christina Ricci (Clotilde), coquette and passionate mistress of Duroy, who “enjoys herself” and knows how to seize the day. Finally, there is Virginie Rousset, a woman with useful connections and a fortune. They are all being used by Duroy, skillfully and without hesitation; the domain of gods named Money and Success is coming near.
Duroy’s story reminds of The Portrait of Dorian Grey. George, in his pursuit of power and financial stability, becomes an immoral creature, “a beast”, looking only for his advantage. Few can be fooled by his manners and attractive appearance: his soul is dark and full of schemes, he is incapable to love and he has no real friends. Yet Maupassant leaves the end open: one can only guess what career peaks the journalist might achieve and what methods he will use. Does making a career mean being arrogant and egoistic? A rhetorical question of all times.