After two years of military service in North Africa ex-sergeant Georges Duroy is now living an impoverished existence in Paris. Willing to do anything to escape his grubby room in the suburbs and, increasingly unscrupulous, he mercilessly exploits influential comrades-in-arms and wealthy women to work his way up the social ladder and into the late nineteenth-century capital’s chicest urbane circles. Sanguine and calculating, he storms bastions of power in the speculative colonial stock-market meanwhile indulging in amorous adventures in the luxurious establishments of the nouveau riche. Paris it seems has been waiting for a man of such dubious political, moral and erotic pursuits.
After several successful adaptations – including Willi Forst’s 1938 version and Louis Daquin’s 1955 interpretation – Bel-Ami Guy de Maupassant’s socially critical novel of 1885 returns to the screen once more. Carefully following the original literary work, Director Declan Donnellan portrays a careerist upstart who ruthlessly exploits the entanglement of politics, economics, media and his private life to his own ends. A glamorous and sarcastic comedy of manners about hypocrisy as one of the fundamental laws in a bourgeois era. –Berlinale