In the French Movie “My Mother’s Castle” (trans. 1.) a family from Marseilles, France, finds the perfect vacation place in the country surrounding Marseilles. Mother, Father, and three siblings, including the eldest, Marcel, are enchanted by the cottage they rent and the lush scenery. Marcel in particular relishes walks in the hillside. During one of these walks gathering spices for his mother, he encounters an eccentric young girl named Isabelle. Isabelle practically bewitches Marcel, because she is extraordinarily pretty, though very self-absorbed. Each time Marcel encounters her, Isabelle is dressed in some strangely romantic outfit of the era (circa 1914). Upon their first encounter, Marcel meets Isabelle’s mother as well and finds her somewhat strange and unimpressed with Marcel. Even Isabelle’s father is unconventional, drinking absinthe to aid his “poetic” nature. Although Isabelle is bossy, Marcel yields to her demands. She orders him to dress up as a soldier, a slave and a dog. Once she feeds him a grasshopper. When Marcel’s younger siblings report this to their father, he forbids Marcel from further contact with the family, and with mixed feelings watches them leave the area a while later.

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Marcel’s father is a beloved school teacher. His old friend arrives at the vacation home bearing gifts for the children. The biggest gift of all, however, is from one of Marcel’s father’s ex-students. The man helps care take for a canal that connects Marseilles to the vacation house’s surrounding hills. The former pupil has access to a key that opens several doors along the way. By using this shortcut the family would be able to visit their beloved vacation home more often. Although the family is reluctant to do so at first, soon they realize that, with a shortened commute, they can visit the vacation home every weekend. All share a fear that if caught trespassing they might face great consequences. Nevertheless, they make the journey regularly for a time, so in love with the region are they all.

Although they meet the owner of one of the doors and the caretaker of the second, who are amenable to the family utilizing the shortcut, Marcel’s mother has a negative premonition that comes true. The owner of the third door, finally fed up with their unauthorized trekking over his property, padlocks the door and reports the trespass to the authorities. Although the matter is resolved in favor of the family due to the intervention of employees of the canal, the gate is padlocked and the key given to a dog, preventing the caretaker from leaving.

Five years passes, and the movie brings the audience up to date with the revelation that Marcel’s mother has passed. Both of his siblings, Paul and Lili, have also succumbed in unusual, premature fashion. Paul, a goatherd in the Provence, dies at the untimely age of 31. Lili is killed during WWI in 1917. Although Marcel is still alive and a successful film director, he is lonely. Ironically, his company bought a large home in Marseilles and Marcel discovers the door from the last property leading to the childhood vacation home. He throws a rock through the door, symbolically destroying it and any hold that Isabelle or the property may have had on him or his family. Through destruction Marcel finds peace.

  • Robert, Yves. Le château de ma mère, (My Mother’s Castle). 26 Oct 1990. Gaumont. Film.