If you’re going to commit adultery, you might as well do it in a nice bedroom.
That’s one lesson we learn from Madame Bovary, the title character of Gustave Flaubert’s classic 1856 novel of one woman’s lust for a more adventurous life.
The book has now been adapted into a gorgeous film starring Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Stoker, Jane Eyre) as Emma Bovary, a lonely young wife who embarks on a dangerous journey through multiple sex partners and multiple bedrooms.
“It’s a movie about adultery and where she consumes adultery,” says director Sophie Barthes. “In the book she has an affair in the woods, but we put it back in the bedroom because every bedroom is a sign of a person’s personality.”
Van Winkle’s spoke with Barthes about the three men in Emma Bovary’s life — her husband and the two men who exploit her sexual curiosity — and how her relationship with each man is reflected through that mysterious, magical place: the bedroom.
At the beginning of the film, Emma is forced into an arranged marriage with Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), a dull country doctor. On her first night with Charles, Emma realizes that her new husband is going to be as boring as his bedroom.
“The bedroom is an image of Charles,” Barthes says. “It’s a very boring, plain clay wall and very sparse bedroom. And then, as she becomes an adulteress, she starts redecorating her bedroom… So there’s a transformation to the bedroom that is also her transformation.
“But at the beginning, her first night at the house, the bedroom is really a reflection of the narrow life that her husband has. He really doesn’t spend much time in the bedroom.”
The Marquis (Logan Marshall-Green) is a handsome socialite who lures Emma with his romantic gestures. But deep inside, he’s not as pretty as his face or bedroom.
“The bedroom of the Marquis is also very much what his personality is,” Barthes says. “It’s a little bit baroque…and he’s a man who’s very close to earth because he hunts a lot. So the colors, red and green, it’s a pretty heavy environment. I think it reveals that although he’s a pretty light person and a womanizer, there’s a dark side to his soul.”
And then there’s Leon (Eza Miller), the young law student who seduces Emma with his boyish charm. This pair shacks up in a hotel bedroom.
“With Leon, it’s [about] freedom,” Barthes says. “They have an affair in a hotel room, and it’s a very light and bright room because she still has hope that her life is going to change.
“So the production designer chose very light colors: light pink, very light blue and everything is pastel and very airy. It’s very much 18th-century style, and Leon is very much like this. He’s younger than the Marquis, he’s an irresponsible guy and so I think the hotel room matches his personality well.”
Meaningful bedroom design isn’t just for adulterers in the French countryside. Especially if you’re inviting new friends into your boudoir, it’s worth considering what your decor says about you. Just don’t be a Charles Bovary.
Madame Bovary is out on DVD and Blu-ray Aug. 4.