Jacqueline Sauvage: It Was Him Or Me Review – Shocking, Triumphant Recreation, Resonating

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On September 10, 2012, Jacqueline Sauvage after 47 years of violent physical abuse and domestic violence, loaded a shotgun with three shells and pulled the trigger, shooting her husband three times in the back as he sipped a whiskey.

 

Directed by Yves Renier, the French television drama presented at the recent 23rd Annual COLCOA Film Festival, is based on the true story of Jacqueline Sauvage and stars Muriel Robin as Sauvage, Olivier Marchal as Norbert Marot, her husband, and Armelle Deutsch as Jeannie Bonaggiunto and Alix Poisson as Nathalie Tomasini.


 

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It Was Him or Me begins with the murder. As the camera pans the scene, we see close ups of two hands picking the shotgun from the gun rack, three shells being loaded, the bullet holes as he lie bleeding, and then the camera returns to her, Jacqueline, face bruised, lip cut, nose partially bloody, hand marks still viable on her neck. And then we here the phone call to police, as she explains she murdered her husband.

She is questioned at the house for her motive, as she sat bruised and bloody in front of a local officer. The finality, marking the end of the abuse, nearly five decades of brutality, living on the edge, never knowing when the next explosion would come interrupting a family dinner, a gathering, in front of neighbors, shocking humiliation and embarrassment rendered her mute. She remained calm and only thankful it was over.

She is imprisoned. Taken to a local Women’s Correctional facility, she is held without bail until her trial, which is set for one year. The following day she is brought to the Warden’s office, her only son committed suicide. The police escorted her to the grave side service, where she is greeted by her remaining family, three daughters, who also grew up in the hell she lived through.

Prison life for Ms. Sauvage appeared to be almost a time of healing. Although she was in prison, she was essentially safe, it was the longest prolonged time in her adult life where she was not physically beaten. Her job at the prison to teach baking classes, enabled her to perform duties which elevated her mind, she was in authority and affirmed for her intelligence and skill.


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Of course, the day of her trail came, and still unable to speak of the torture, the humiliation, and violence, she barely presented a defense. The court found her guilty and sentenced her to ten years in prison.

Repeated visits by her daughters, encouraged her to file the appeal process and with only two days left before the appeal expired she decided to try again. This time, two female lawyers who represent victims of violence, abuse and domestic violence to much success agreed to take her case.

For her part she needed to write a journal, which is where the film takes the audience on the journey of Ms. Sauvage's life. We begin to see the patterns of abuse, the beating, kicking, punching with a full fist, broken bones, stabbing, dragged around by the hair on her head, tossed outside like an animal, tortured for 47 years.

The stories, which are common among abuse victims, family gatherings, a mistaken glance from a male friend, insignificant gestures becoming the fuse, and we see also through her eyes the times when she recognizes the triggers, the excessive alcohol, knowing from experience what will follow, and he pattern remains true.

More than a mean drunk, as Norbert, played by Olivier Marchal, would drink a demonic rage would come over him. Whomever and whatever was closest to him, and most often it was Jacqueline alone or shielding her daughters, who would suffer the blows until the rage had worn off or she was significantly brutalized.


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The second trial begins. Unlike the first trial the attorney present witnesses which corroborate the abuse. Neighbors who testify of him chasing them into the house with his shotgun, business partners speaking of money troubles.

Her daughters testifying as both victims and witnesses. They explained in court that they would no longer carry the burden, be bound in secret to his abuse. Their revelations of repeated sexual abuse was deeply disturbing as always when reported it fell on deaf ears as the local police, in Montgaris, France, a small town in the countryside where the family lived, conspired to keep Norbert’s dirty secrets safe.

The revelations were shocking, as Jacqueline slowly remembered the years, 47 years, of violence. Also shocking, the appellate verdict which upheld her sentence. She was sent back to prison.

Two years later former French President François Hollande commuted her sentence. Jacqueline Sauvage was finally free.

The performances are scary good in their recreation and authenticity. Spot on, tributes of the highest praise, the scope of the accolades don’t carry the full weight of seeing these actors take these roles and become them. See this film.


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The television drama, which resonated with COLCOA festival attendees, took the top television prize, winning Best TV Movie Award. It was the number one watched drama in France garnering a record breaking 9million viewers and taking 40% of the market share. It is expected to be picked up on one of the streaming platforms may be shown to America audiences soon.

A Powerful Indictment of a System in Need of Change

Jacqueline Sauvage: It Was Him or Me, in French with English subtitles. See it.

 

Articles under copyright protection ©

Images courtesy of COLCOA Film Festival, TFI Studio, and Director Yves Renier.

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