One of the easiest ways of making fun of high-class people is to show their greatest concerns to be formed of the most trivial things. I don't know if that is the idea from the original novel by HonorÃ© de Balzac, or even whether the filmmakers wanted the idea to come through. The main thing I am left with that these people are very silly.
Which, to an extent, is a good thing - meaning they're acting in character, though their collective character may itself by silly and quite morally lacking.
The setting is revolution-era France, and fortunes are changing hands easily with the uncertainties. Bette's sister has died, and the rich Hulot family she was married into offers to give Bette a servant's position, which is really about the last thing she wants - she'd much rather have been welcomed in as a member of the family.
So, Bette works as a seamstress in a theater, where she gets chummy with the young but worldly lead actress. She also takes on a project of redeeming a faltering artist, a man who has given up on himself but does possess talent.
From there, the pattern becomes one of folk in Bette's good graces taking her for granted one way or another and then her taking a harsh but anonymous personal revenge.
The revenge story doesn't take over until around midway through. The symbolistic changes in the movie are somewhat blatant, but in fact fairly cute.
The movie turns into a character study of Bette, but she is also surrounded by interesting characters as well, behaving as they will, but making interesting choices regardless.
Perhaps the most provocative question about the film is who, if anybody, do you actually like by the time the credits roll?
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