Cast & Crew
François, withdrawn and fearful of riding in cars as a result of an automobile crash that left him an orphan, lives with his middle-aged aunt and uncle, Florence and Philippe, in a chateau in Provence. The couple's arrogant 20-year-old son, Olivier, makes a stopover at the chateau in the course of his travels. Philippe announces that Wendy, the daughter of an old wartime friend, is arriving from England for a stay; actually she is Philippe's mistress. François, fascinated by the new houseguest, steals a bottle of perfume from her room and cuts off a lock of her hair while she is sleeping. Tensions in the household increase as the jealous Florence is suddenly forced to face her fading beauty, and Olivier tries unsuccessfully to seduce Wendy. Put off by Olivier's egomania and bored by Philippe's attentions, Wendy devotes more and more of her time to sharing François' secret world. Although her friendship gives the boy the courage to ride in an automobile again, he misunderstands her intentions and believes that she will take him with her when she returns to London. On the day of her departure, he readies himself to leave but finds that he is to be left behind. Desolate, François retreats to his private treehouse after Wendy has left and pours the bottle of her perfume over his face.
Copyright length: 111 min. Paris opening: July 1969 as La promesse; running time: ca90 min; alternative French title: L'échelle blanche. Location scenes filmed in or near Arles.