Drama - Development 2013

Who will be able to stand in front the grand ambitions of a family?

    • Year of production
    • 2013
    • Genres
    • Drama
    • Countries
    • ITALY
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 1 - 3 M$
    • Synopsis
    • The Ball may be a slim novella, but it is a concentrated effort, Némirovsky at her best (and malicious worst). It is the story of Alfred and Rosine Kampf, and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Antoinette. The Kampfs lived humbly until recently, but Alfred suddenly found success and their circumstances have changed drastically. They have moved into a huge apartment, and now are trying to establish themselves in society. And so it is time for them to throw their first grand ball.
      Madame Kampf has grand ambitions, but her husband reminds her that one has to put up with quite a bit if one wants to work one's way up -- and so also:
      "We must be methodical, my dear. For a first party, invite anyone and everyone -- as many of the sods as you can stand. When it comes to the second or third you can start to be selective. This time we have to invite everyone in sight."
      For all the high society that is invited, a lot of them have questionable pasts : some have been jailed for fraud, some were prostitutes. But this is a society where the only measure of true worth is money, and wealth is enough to gloss of over any unseemly past.
      Antoinette is roped into helping to write the invitations, but though she desperately wants to be part of the grand affair her mother will have none of that: this is her stage to shine on. A cot will be set up for the girl in a dingy back room, and she is to go to bed at 9:00, as usual -- an hour before the ball is even set to begin. All her mother wants is for her to be out of the way.
      Antoinette is at that age where she imagines adult life -- love and balls and the like -- and resents how her parents are holding her back. More than most sullen teens she has a point: self-absorbed mom is worried about aging and she's unforgivably dismissive of her upstart daughter. But the ball affords Antoinette an opportunity to strike a devastating blow, and change their situations forever.
      Némirovsky's scenario is slightly implausible, and yet in the way everything unfolds seems believable enough. Antoinette doesn't set out to wreck her mother's grand night, but a series of small events convincingly set everything into motion.
      The characters are very nicely drawn, from prototypical teen Antoinette to the horrible mother to the poor relation, piano teacher Mademoiselle Isabelle. This is a family at its self-destructive worst, a (melo)drama Némirovsky gleefully recounts.
      A sharp social satire, The Ball is almost too remorseless to stand -- but so well done that it's impossible to turn away. With each cutting aside and observation Némirovsky reveals more and more of the utter falseness and shallowness of what passes for 'society', the high as base as anything one could imagine. And in making what happens in what winds up being essentially a family drama such a pivotal point in the lives of mother and daughter the story also feels much fuller than if it were just the account of a failed ball.
      Well worthwhile, and bitterly enjoyable.