The Widow of Saint-Pierre

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The Widow of Saint-Pierre
Theatrical poster
Directed byPatrice Leconte
Produced byFrédéric Brillion
Gilles Legrand
Daniel Louis
Denise Robert
Written byClaude Farraldo
Patrice Leconte
StarringJuliette Binoche
Daniel Auteuil
Emir Kusturica
Music byPascal Estève
CinematographyEduardo Serra
Edited byJoëlle Hache
Distributed byPathé (France)
Film Four (UK)
Lionsgate (US)
Release date
  • 19 April 2000 (2000-04-19)
Running time
120 minutes
Budget$13 million[1]
Box office$7,074,234[2]

The Widow of Saint-Pierre (French: La veuve de Saint-Pierre) is a 2000 film by Patrice Leconte with Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil and Emir Kusturica. Based on an actual case, it tells the story of a disillusioned army officer whose love for his wife in her efforts to save a convicted murderer leads him to disobey orders.

The film made its North American debut at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival. It was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2001 for Best Foreign Language Film and in that year was also nominated for two César Awards.


In 1849, on the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, two rescued sailors get drunk and kill a man. Arrested, tried and sentenced, one dies in custody but the other, Néel, has to wait for his execution because the little islands have no guillotine or executioner.

The restored fortress and town of Louisboug stood in for nineteenth century St. Pierre
The modern waterfront of St. Pierre

He is kept in the army barracks under the command of the Captain, who loves and trusts his childless wife known as Madame La. She takes an interest in the handsome young convict and begins to try to redeem him. Under her auspices, Néel works hard, does various good deeds and starts to win the respect of the islanders. The authorities are however adamant that he must die.

A year passes before the authorities hear that an old guillotine is on its way from the island of Martinique. By that time Néel is a changed man, who has learned to read and has even become a father after a quick encounter with a young widow whose roof he was mending. To the fury of the authorities, the Captain gets a priest into the barracks to marry the pair.

When the ship with the guillotine eventually approaches, its rudder is broken and the island's men are asked to tow it inshore in rowing boats, one being Néel. Seeing how powerfully he rows, Madame La fills a boat with food and tells him to escape in it to the British island of Newfoundland. He however returns to his cell.

As none of the islanders will take the job of executioner, a new arrival is made to accept the task or face deportation. The Captain then tells the authorities that he will not order his soldiers to fire on inhabitants who obstruct the execution. For this disobedience, he is placed aboard a warship to be taken back to France for court-martial and Madame La joins him.

The Captain is condemned to death and shot by a firing squad. Back on Saint-Pierre, the old guillotine fails to work and they have to cut Néel's head off with an axe.


Awards and nominations[edit]

Production notes[edit]

Though set in the French colony of St Pierre and Miquelon, the movie was filmed in the restored Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.[4] The French title La Veuve de Saint-Pierre contains wordplay. "Veuve" translates to "Widow". In the 1800s the word was also slang for a guillotine.[5]


  1. ^ "The Widow of St. Pierre Box Office Data". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  2. ^ "The Widow of St. Pierre (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  3. ^ "22nd Moscow International Film Festival (2000)". MIFF. Archived from the original on March 28, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  4. ^ "Blog referring to the food prepared or the lead actor". Archived from the original on 29 June 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  5. ^ Brown, Susan. "The Widow of Saint-Pierre (La Veuve de Saint-Pierre) (2001) < PopMatters". Retrieved 2010-06-28.

External links[edit]