The movie follows the life of a seemingly nomadic woman, Vianne, who sets up a small Chocolaterie with her daughter Anouk in a small village in France. The wary mayor, Comte Paul de Reynaud, is immediately alerted and looks upon her as an immoral soul, preaching the same to the village people. According to him, anyone who does not have the requisite attributes that have become part of the village’s acceptable standards, such as going to church or serving a husband, is immediately rendered unacceptable. As Josephine, a distraught wife of a drunk and abusive husband, explained to Vianne when she admitted she does not go to church “You won’t last long here” (Johnny, Binoche and Molina).
Moreover, the Comte chose to dismiss her evil ways in a deceptively discreet fashion, which involved him editing the preacher’s speeches at church with words such as temptation, trifles and chocolate that directly referred to Vianne’s shop while at the same time being nice to her up front. Such rigid adherence to social standards causes the villagers to agree with the Comte at first, and pass the message on to their wives, children and the likes, while at the same time being curious as to what the Chocolaterie had to offer. When Vianne discovered the two faced nature of the Comte’s disposition, her pleasant inviting nature gave way to bitter rage and caused her to confront him at his own office, where he threatens to flop her business by Easter.
While repression of a certain unacceptable form of behavior may produce conformity and certainty in a society, it heightens the difference between an individual’s good and bad side, so much so that the shadow self in a person’s unconscious mind develops a repressed personality opposite to the personality of the conscious mind. This was seen in Vianne’s case that was an otherwise gentle person but was struck with rage when a child refused to draw a picture of her just because she was reputedly immoral. Her shadow self there overwhelmed her main self and caused her to scurry over to the Comte’s office to demand an explanation.
Conforming to the acceptable social standards by Vianne was difficult given that she was mothering a bastard child, a fact used by the Comte to raise concerns regarding her immorality. The same went for Josephine, who was apparently affected by kleptomania, but was interpreted as a thief and therefore shunned by society in general. Another deviation from the social norm for Josephine was the fact that she did not love her husband, and through Vianne finally found the courage to leave him and come to Vianne, who took her in. As a result, the Comte reserved his judgments for both ladies but coming together as a minority helped them both regain composure and further their image as respectable women. When Vianne extended a hospitable hand towards the river gypsies, however, the Comte got further instigated, interpreting it as two evils uniting and used it to base his argument against her immoral ways. This was done to good effect, as can be judged by Anouk’s reaction who went as far as to question her mother with “Are you satan’s helper” and “Why can’t you wear black shoes like the other mothers” (Johnny, Binoche and Molina).
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