The Mad Women’s Ball is a pet project for Mélanie Laurent (The Concert, Oxygen), who has directed and written the screenplay for this, based on a novel by Victoria Mas and set in 1885, in a bygone era where a young woman, Eugénie (Lou de Laâge), has the gift of being able to see and talk to the dead.
Unfortunately, society isn’t as free-thinking as it can be today, and so instead of embracing this talent, her brother, Théophile (Benjamin Voisin) gets her locked up in an insane asylum, which seems quite a stretch to assess someone in that way.
The place is overseen by Geneviève Gleizes (Mélanie Laurent), on behalf of a Dr Charcot (Grégoire Bonnet) – who thinks nothing of peforming obvious quackery amongst his fellow peers, even if they think they’re practicing any sort of medicine, which involves tormenting the patients for their amusement, including Louise (Lomane de Dietrich), who’s affected so much in one session that she has an epileptic fit, and no-one helps her.
As Eugénie soon finds out, they’re all clearly suffering inhumane treatment, such as being forced to endure an ice bath, drugging patients to keep them in the facility, plus even worse as you’ll discover, not least when one doctor, Jules (Christophe Montenez), abuses women in his care.
Given that Geneviève has recently lost her sister, Blandine, she wants the new arrival to help her communicate beyond the grave.
The Mad Women’s Ball – for which the actual ball, which takes place during mid-Lent – really does make you wonder how people could be treated like that, but then in times gone by, it was thought that leeches could be used for all kinds of disorders, rather than using the kind of medical advancements we see today.
Overall, this is a film which has its moments, but not enough of them. It takes almost half an hour before anything seems to happen, and while the second half of the film is better than the first, overall, it really is far slower than it needs to be. You could cut the two hours down to about 80 minutes and it could be so much better.
Running time: 121 minutes
Release date: September 17th 2021
Studio: Amazon Prime Video
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Director: Mélanie Laurent
Producers: Axelle Boucaï, Alain Goldman
Screenplay: Mélanie Laurent
Novel (Le Bal des Folles): Victoria Mas
Geneviève Gleizes: Mélanie Laurent
Ernest: César Domboy
Eugénie: Lou de Laâge
Théophile: Benjamin Voisin
Jeanne: Emmanuelle Bercot
François Cléry: Cédric Kahn
Camille: Coralie Russier
Grandmother Cléry: Martine Chevallier
Dr Jean-Martin Charcot: Grégoire Bonnet
Dr. Gleizes: André Marcon
Mrs. Cléry: Valérie Stroh
Jules: Christophe Montenez
Hortense Prevost-Roumagnac: Valentine Cadic
Marthe: Mathilde Roehrich
Louise: Lomane de Dietrich
Marguerite: Lauréna Thellier
Prévost Roumagnac (cooker): Catherine Artigala
Henriette: Alice Barnole
Prevost Roumagnac: Vincent Nemeth
Thérèse: Martine Schambacher
Marie (nurse): Laura Balasuriya
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.