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untellable

Manon des Sources (film)

Manon des Sources (released in North America as Manon of the Spring) is a critically acclaimed and commercially successful 1986 French language motion picture. Based upon the 1966 two-part novel by Marcel Pagnol, itself an adaptation of an earlier film of the same title by Pagnol, it is the sequel to Jean de Florette. The plot echoes some aspects of the story of St. Bernadette of Lourdes, who, following the instruction of an apparent Marian apparition, caused a spring famous for the healing properties of its waters to develop.

Plot summary

Following the events of Jean de Florette, Manon, the daughter of Jean, is living in the countryside of Provence near Les Romarins, the farm that her father once owned. She has taken up residence with an elderly Piedmontese squatter couple who teach her to live off the land, tending to a herd of goats and hunting for birds and rabbits. Ugolin Soubeyran has begun a successful business growing carnations at Les Romarins with his uncle, César Soubeyran—also known as Papet—thanks to the water provided by the spring there.

After seeing her bathe naked in the mountains, Ugolin develops an interest in Manon, who is disgusted by his ugliness and vileness. But Ugolin's interest in Manon soon becomes a passionate love. At the same time, Manon becomes interested in Bernard, a handsome and educated schoolteacher who had recently arrived in the village. As a small child, Manon had seen César and Ugolin unblocking a spring they had hidden from her father, who died of a blow to the head after attempting to find the water source. César and Ugolin had then bought the farm cheaply from his widow— Manon's mother— and unblocked the spring. Thus they profited directly from his death. When she overhears two villagers talking about it, she realises that many in the village knew of the crime but had remained silent, for the Soubeyran family was local and important. While searching for a goat that fell into a crevice above the village, Manon finds the underground source of the spring which supplies water to the local farms and village. She stops the flow of water with mud and rocks to take her revenge on the Soubeyrans and the villagers who knew but did nothing.

The villagers quickly become desperate for water to feed their crops and run their businesses, and they progressively come to believe that the water flow had been stopped by some untellable providence to punish the injustice committed against Jean. Manon publicly accuses César and Ugolin, and the villagers progressively admit their own complicity in the persecution of Jean, whom they never accepted and who they felt was unworthy of their trust because he was an outsider and was physically deformed. César tries to explain away his actions but an eye-witness steps forward to confirm the crime, shaming both César and Ugolin. Ugolin makes a desperate attempt to ask Manon for her hand in marriage, but the hate in her eyes is clear and the Soubeyrans are forced to flee in disgrace. Rejected by Manon, Ugolin commits suicide by hanging himself from a tree, thus apparently ending the Soubeyran line.

The villagers appeal to Manon to take part in a religious procession to the village's fountain, hoping that acknowledging the injustice will restore the flow of water to the village once more. With the assistance of Bernard, Manon unblocks the spring in advance, and the water arrives at the village at the very moment that the procession reaches the fountain. Manon marries the schoolteacher, Bernard.

Meanwhile, the loss of Ugolin has made César a broken man. Delphine, an old acquaintance of César, returns to the village and tells of how Florette, his old sweetheart, had written to him to tell of the child she carried, a child she later tried to abort with potions and self-injury when she received no reply from César. Florette later left the village, married a blacksmith from nearby Créspin, and the child was born alive - but a hunchback. Whilst fighting in Africa for his military service, César never received the letter and never knew that Florette had given birth to his child. In a cruel twist of fate, Jean, the man he drove to desperation and effectively killed, was the son he had always wanted. Devastated, and lacking the will to live any longer, César dies quietly in his sleep. In a letter he leaves his property to his granddaughter Manon.

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