Therese Raquin

A-Theresa RaquinZola Novel Vividly Dramatized in Vintage Miniseries 

   Just as—or maybe because—a dramatic adaptation of Emile Zola’s first successful novel “Therese Raquin” is opening on Broadway, Acorn has released on DVD the 1979 miniseries, seen back then on Masterpiece Theatre. This is the  depressing tale of a woman, Therese Raquin (Kate Nelligan) utterly bored with her childish and lifeless husband Camille (Kenneth Cranham), his overly doting mother (Mona Washbourne) with whom Therese runs a small shop, and the same set of friends who gather every week at the Raquins to play dominoes.

One can really feel for Therese, at least at first! When Camille’s friend Laurent (Brian Cox) visits, there is immediate sexual attraction between him and Therese; and a long affair begins (with scenes that were quite shocking for American television back then). It is notable that Zola wanted to show “the brute” in people; and Nelligan’s imitating a cat in bed dramatizes perfectly Zola’s concept.

There is an unforgettable scene at the Morgue, where the naked bodies of recent victims are laid out on tables for the public to identify or simply gawk at. People as brutes and then as meat. Pure Zola.

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Emile Zola at an older age

The killing of the husband is a bungled affair and the rest of the drama shows the disintegration of the lovers’ relationship. (I can surely reveal this much, since it is inevitable.) The acting is what makes this a remarkable dramatic offering. Here I must mention Alan Rickman in a secondary role as an artist friend of Laurent.

The picture shows its age, especially during dark scenes, and the subtitles are most welcome. Each of the three episodes runs 51 minutes.