Comedy of Innocence

Comedy of Innocence (French: Comédie de l'innocence) is a 2000 French drama film directed by Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz and starring Isabelle Huppert.[2] It is co-scripted by Ruiz and Françoise Dumas. The film is produced by Mact Productions, distributed by Canal+, CNC, TF1, Les Films du Camelia.[3] As Michael Goddard indicates in his book, The Cinema of Raul Ruiz: Impossible Cartographies, the film was loosely adapted from Massimo Bontempelli novella "Il Figilio del Due Madri", or "The Child of Two Mothers"[4]

Comedy of Innocence
Film poster
Directed byRaúl Ruiz
Produced byAntoine de Clermont-Tonnerre
Written byMassimo Bontempelli
François Dumas
Raúl Ruiz
StarringIsabelle Huppert
Music byJorge Arriagada
CinematographyJacques Bouquin
Edited byMireille Hannon
Distributed byCanal+, CNC, TF1
Release date
Running time
100 minutes
Budget$2.1 million
Box office$690,000[1]

The music is composed by Jorge Arriagada, a Chilean composer who collaborated with Ruiz on other films such as Shattered Image and Three Lives and Only One Death,[5] indicating a common practice for Ruiz to collaborate with the same core crew members over multiple films.


Camille is a child who lives with his parents, Ariane and Serge and the household caretaker, Hélène. Camille often speaks of a friend of his, Alexandre, who he must meet with frequently. In addition to this, Camille is attached to a video-cassette camera that he is very possessive of. Camille, eating dinner with the household on his birthday, questions if Ariane was there for his birth. She replies of course she was and recalls specifics of the scene to Camille after he doubts her answer.

After spending an afternoon in the park with Hélène, Camille demands that he be brought home, to his true home. Confused and upset, Ariane wonders what he means and consults with Hélène, who insists everything was normal until she arrived. Ariana takes Camille home.

After demanding further, Camille insists that he be brought home, to his true mother, and that this lie has gone on far enough. Skeptical, Ariane takes him to the home that Camille brings them to. He Ariane knock on the front door and the caretaker of the apartment, Laurence, opens the door. Ariane says she and the owner are old friends who lost touch, and that she is dizzy and needs to take a rest inside. Laurence lets them in and Camille runs off into a bedroom with pictures of young boy across the wall. Laurence reveals, although supposedly Ariane and Camille know this already, that the young boy on the wall drowned years before, and was the owner, Isabella's, son. Ariane, at that point, insists that Camille and she go home, however Camille refuses. Ariane asks for Laurence to phone for a taxi, and she and Camille go home.

Once at home, Camille refers to Ariane by her name, and not as "mommy" like he previously did. Ariane and Serge become worried, but indulge with Camille as he is their son. Ariane decides to take Camille back to Camille's "real home" the next day. When they arrive, Isabella is there and she and Camille seem to bond, with Camille revealing that his true name is Paul, the name of the dead son of Isabella. Isabella and "Paul" unite, excluding Ariane. Camille insist that Ariane spend the night with them, as she has been good to him. Ariane, not wishing to abandon her child, agrees.

The next day, Ariane, Isabella, and Camille go back to Ariane's house. Isabella is careful not to abandon Ariane too soon, but Isabella is keen on possessing Camille as her son. Once at the house, Camille continues referring to Isabella as "mommy" and Ariane by her name. Serge sits in a room alone with Camille and demands for him to understand that his name is Camille and that Ariane is his true mother. Camille does not agree, and runs away.

Ariane, Isabella, and Serge chase after him, searching. Ariane thinks to herself with anger towards Isabella and vows to not let her steal the child from her. Then, feeling lightheaded, she confronts Isabella and asks her to move in with them, as she does not want to leave Camille. Ariane says that Isabella has won.

Isabella moves her things into the large home, revealing that she has no family of her own until her "son" arrived. She is happy to move in. The next day, Camille is told by his uncle that his mother, Isabella, is waiting downstairs and that they have to leave. He complies. Camille is driven off by his uncle before Isabella arrives. When Isabella arrives, Serge's secretary is waiting with a car to drive her to a hospital, where supposedly Camille is. Once they arrive, Isabella notices that this is a mental institution. She is confronted by Serge and demands to leave, while Serge says the only way she can leave is if she is admitted to the hospital. Serge insists that they run tests on her.

Meanwhile, Ariane receives a phone call from the uncle that Camille has been dropped off, yet she cannot find him. She eventually does see him in the outside yard and has a conversation with him that Isabella ran off, leaving him alone. Camille refuses to believe her and calls her a liar. Ariane reports to Serge that the conversation did not go well.

Later, in the rain, Camille runs off again, while Isabella is no where to be found at the hospital, much to Serge's anger. Isabella is confronted in her house by Alexandre, a boy who she thought was imaginary. He reveals that he knows something is troubling, as Camille has not been to their appointments in two days, whereas he previously never missed one. Alexandre reveals that Camille had been followed by hallucinations that Alexandre believed was due to a poor diet. Alexandre reveals that Camille believed the ghost named Paul was following him. Alexandre then gives Ariane the possessions that he was told to give her by Camille if he were ever in trouble. Then, Alexandre leaves out the window, which was the way that Camille used to leave the house to meet him.

Isabella finds cassette tapes from Camille's camera with Hélène and they begin watching footage of Isabella attempting to convince an ambivalent Camille that his name is Paul and that he is her son. They are standing on the ledge that Isabella's son fell from and drowned, and she makes a point to tell Camille that this is where he fell. Ariane then, to her knowledge, understands what happened. She is upset that Hélène would have left him alone, yet Hélène insists she never let Camille out of her sight. Isabella phones Serge and they drive to the ledge together. Once there, they wait to see what happens so as not to overwhelm Camille.

The next morning, Isabella reveals herself, and is about to enter a taxi at the ledge with Camille when she is confronted by Ariane and Serge. Camille runs to Ariane and calls her "mommy".

Isabella goes home with Ariane, who promises not to reveal the cassette tapes. Isabella insists it is not her fault and that she loves Ariane, who does not believe her. Isabella argues that it was Camille whose fault it was. Ariane leaves her in the room, when she hears Camille calling for her.

Ariane tells a skeptical Hélène that she will watch more of the cassette tapes. As Ariane watches, she sees a scene of Camille questioning Ariane as his true mother, and that Isabella must be his true mother. Isabella, on the tape, has longer hair and refuses to be Camille's mother at first, until she is swayed by Camille and skips off, holding the air as if there were an invisible hand.

The film ends with a shot of a painting on the wall in Ariane's house. There were repetitive instances of shots of the paintings and artwork on the walls throughout the film.


  • Isabelle Huppert – Ariane
    • Ariana is the biological mother of Camille and wife to Serge. Ruiz describes her as an inattentive mother who loves her child, yet cannot display her affection. Troubled by her son's insistence that he does not belong to her, she becomes desperate to keep him.
  • Jeanne Balibar – Isabella
    • Camille arrives to Isabella's house claiming that his name is Paul and that he is the son of Isabella. She has no remaining family since her son's death a few years prior to the timeline of the film. Her son drowned on a ledge named "Ariane". She lives with her caretaker, Laurence.
  • Charles Berling – Serge
    • Serge is husband to Ariane and a doctor who works at a hospital for the mentally ill. He is Camille's father and brother to Pierre.
  • Édith Scob – Laurence
    • Laurence is the caretaker of Isabella and keeps the home orderly when Isabella is not home. She is the character who reveals the death of Isabella's son to Ariane and Camille.
  • Nils Hugon – Camille
    • Camille turns 9 years old at the start of the film and is Ariane and Serge's son. He uses a cassette video camera to record objects and events and has a friend that his family believes to be imaginary, named Alexandre. He likes to lick his plate after eating. He insists that his name is Paul for most of the film and that he is the son of Isabella.
  • Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre – Hélène
    • The caretaker for Ariane and Serge's house, Hélène is in charge of watching Camille while his parents are working or absent. She enjoys being video taped by Camille and often takes him to the park.
  • Denis Podalydès – Pierre
    • Pierre is Camille's uncle and frequently appears at Ariane and Serge's house to eat meals and provide assistance.
  • Chantal Bronner – Martine
  • Bruno Marengo – Alexandre
    • Alexandre was at first believed to be an imaginary friend, but he later arrives in the presence of Ariane and reveals that he has been having meetings with Camille for a while and that they are friends.
  • Nicolas de La Baume – Lawyer
  • Jean-Louis Crinon – Taxi driver
  • Valéry Schatz – Taxi driver
  • Emmanuel Clarke – Yannick
  • Alice Souverain – Hélène's friend


Despite a budget of 2.1 million dollars, the film only took $690,000 at the box office. Ruiz indicates that he did not expect certain perception, such as the Argentinian interpretation that the film was a commentary on the missing children during the dictatorship.

There seemed to be critical mixed perception. The New York Times praised the first half to the film as casting "an elegant spell of epistemological confusion".[6] However, when discussing the second half of the film, the reviewer finds the film more irritating than haunting. Eventually, the viewer deems the film as pretentious and teasing, and that pivotal moments happen to matter-of-factly than mysteriously, such as when Ariane insists Isabella moves in with the family and it happens casually.

However, Variety praised the film for its emphasis on ambiguity and mystery of the scenes and objects in the film.[7] Of the ending, Variety says "most viewers will be relieved to find much explained in the end, while others will appreciate pic's lingering last of existential mystery". Either way, the film's conclusion is deemed a success and worth watching.

In an interview with The Independent, Ruiz discusses his motivations for the film and his ongoing relationship with Chile, a country he had long been exiled from. He interviewer called his film "an exquisite and lingering psychodrama starring Isabelle Huppert".[8] He goes on to praise Ruiz himself by saying that "Ruiz is the supreme intellectual of contemporary cinema". As for the film, Ruiz discusses that he has not done much work with the United States, and he sees the advantages, although he would prefer to not have the limitations of working within the United States. He prefers to work on multiple projects at a time, whereas the United States emphasizes single projects at a time.

Awards and Festivals

See also


  1. JP. "Comédie de l\'innocence (2001)- JPBox-Office". Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  2. Scott, A. O. "NY Times: Comedy of Innocence". NY Times. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  3. Clermont-Tonnerre, Martine de, Françoise Dumas, Raúl Ruiz, Isabelle Huppert, Jeanne Balibar, Charles Berling, Édith Scub, et al. 2003. Comédie de l'innocence = The comedy of innocence. New York: Wellspring.
  4. Goddard, Michael. 2013. The cinema of Raúl Ruiz: impossible cartographies.
  5. "Jorge Arriagada". IMDb. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  6. Scott, A. O. (26 September 2000). "So Which One is Mommy Dearest?". New York Times.
  7. Young, Deborah (13 September 2000). "Review: 'Son of Two Mothers or the Comedy of Innocence'". Variety.
  8. "Raoul Ruiz: Songs of innocence and experience". The Independent. 1 March 2002. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  9. Comedy of Innocence, retrieved 2 March 2017
  10. "A shower of awards for Isabelle Huppert". Retrieved 2 March 2017.
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