A MA SOEUR concerns, perhaps, the fertilizing intervention of the stranger, the intrusion of strangeness into the familiar. Anais sees her violation—and the destabilization of her life—as necessary: this is the most subversive thought in Breillat’s film. Why else would she protect the werewolf who rapes her and murders her mother and sister? Throughout the film, Anais prays for a rapist werewolf, a loup-garou, to take away her virginity—and thus prevent her from getting her heart broken. Her sister Roxane is the real tragic figure: she is spiritually wounded by the Italian gigolo who absconds with her virginity. This does not happen to Anais. Her first sexual engagement is with one impossible to love. Much of the film is oriented around the sister–even the title in French bears this out (“To my sister”). Anais is merely the voyeuse, the watcher, the observer—she only becomes humanized and sexualized with the intrusion of the stranger. (One recalls the excruciatingly long scene in which she watches her sister coupling with the lothario.) The film is shocking not merely in what it shows, but in what it implies. It concerns, I believe, the making-foreign of the proper—the intervention of foreignness which allows the Anais to connect to her burgeoning sexuality and to liberate herself from her slavish dependency on the sister, previously her life’s focus.
This film should be watched together with its magisterial counterpart, BREVE TRAVERSEE, also directed by Breillat in 2002. BREVE TRAVERSEE is equally controlled, but even more subtle and more acute.