Seraphin: Heart of Stone Charles Binamé

Seraphin: Heart of Stone Charles Binamé
Don't let the title fool you. Seraphin: Heart of Stone has absolutely no wizards in it. There is also, alas, nary a dwarf, elf or shape-shifting spirit in sight. (Don't you think it sounds like there should be though?) Instead of the otherworld magic you might expect, the movie graces us with old-world images of the bucolic Quebec countryside and romantic clichés as thick as the poutine at St. Hubert's. Where's Peter Jackson when you need him?

Set in the village of St. Adele at the end of the 19th century, Seraphin tells the story of Alexis (Roy Dupuis) and Donalda (Karine Vanasse), two star-crossed lovers who, well, are in love. Donalda has been enraptured with the rapscallion rogue Alexis for most of her life and finally wins his affections with her nubile charms. The two secretly pledge themselves to each other before Alexis leaves town for the winter. When he returns, though, he finds that Donalda has married the town's miserly mayor Seraphin in his absence as part of a business transaction to help save her father's general store. Seraphin (Pierre Lebeau) is a horridly creepy scoundrel and Donalda is rightfully repulsed by him. But, bound by her promise to her father, she spurns Alexis' advances. Needless to say, he's upset.

While based on the Claude-Henri Grignon novel Un Homme et Son Péché, which, according to director Binamé, is central to Quebec "mythology" (I knew it had something to do with mythology!), the movie shows no signs of subtle characterisation and detail that a literary adaptation might imply. It does take a fairly frank look at abortion in rural Roman Catholic Quebec, but hardly a shocking or revolutionary one. Dupuis is a charismatic actor, but has little to do but clench his teeth; as the naive Donalda, Vanasse bears a resemblance to Megan Follows, which gives her character the air of a sort-of Acadian Anne of Green Gables. (This is especially disturbing when Seraphin takes her from behind on the kitchen table.) And Seraphin himself? With his array of elfish skullcaps and mesmerising grey eyes, he's the one element in this bodice-ripper that's not completely laughable. But, hey, he's still no Legolas.