Directed by Nico Papatakis • 1963 • France
Starring Francine Bergé, Colette Bergé, Pascale de Boysson
Inspired by the notorious case of Christine and Léa Papin—French sisters working as maids who murdered their employer’s wife and daughter in 1933—Nico Papatakis’s debut feature was a succès de scandale that was boycotted by Cannes’s selection committee in 1963. A furiously anarchic, expressionistically heightened dissection of class relations, LES ABYSSES unfolds in a country home where domestic servants Michèle and Marie-Louise (played by real-life sisters Francine and Colette Bergé) are cruelly exploited by the family they work for. When their abusive employers push them too far, it provokes a shocking rebellion that doubles as a provocative metaphor for Algerian resistance against French colonialism.