On June 3, 1835, Pierre Rivière, a twenty-year-old farmer in Normandy, slit the throats of his mother, his sister Victoria, and his younger brother, Jules, with a billhook. He then fled and wandered for several weeks in the woods before being arrested. Shortly after being jailed, the murderer, whom most witnesses described as a strangely behaved young man, if not an idiot, began writing a dense memoir, an incredibily beautiful text, a veritable autobiography in which he outlined the reasons which drove him to commit his act: to deliver his father from his “sorrows and afflictions” that his wife had made him suffer from the first day of their marriage. A monstrous criminal or a “poor” madman? The debate would bring magistrates and psychiatrists into conflict for a long time.
Featuring non-professionals – found from among the farmers of the region – in most of the leading roles, René Allio has created a singular and powerful work that pieces together all the layers of this mystery.