The Maids

Watch The Maids

"Sisters. Servants. Sinners."
  • PG
  • 1975
  • 1 hr 35 min
  • 6.3  (573)

The Maids is a 1975 British drama film directed by Christopher Miles, based on the play "Les Bonnes" by French dramatist Jean Genet. The screenplay adaptation is by Robert Enders, and the film stars Glenda Jackson, Susannah York, and Vivien Merchant in a tale that delves into the complex and often dark world of fantasy, identity, and class struggles.

Set in a well-appointed French household, The Maids explores the lives of two sisters, Solange and Claire, who serve as maids to Madame, a wealthy socialite portrayed by Merchant. Jackson and York deliver compelling performances as the maids, bringing to life the inner turmoil and dissatisfaction that simmers beneath their servile exterior.

The film opens with a stark contrast between the opulence of Madame's world and the stark reality of the maids’ lives, immediately immersing the audience in the clashing social dynamics at play. Glenda Jackson's Solange is the elder and seemingly more grounded sister, while Susannah York's Claire is younger, more rebellious, and less able to cope with the suppression of their circumstances.

Although The Maids takes place predominantly within the confined space of Madame's home, the film captures a sense of claustrophobia that echoes the maids' trapped existence. The narrative unfolds gradually through intense and emotionally charged interactions, alternating between the rigidly defined reality and the maids’ elaborate, role-playing fantasies where they act out their oppressions and seek a cathartic release from their subservient positions.

In these fantasies, the sisters take turns dressing in Madame's clothing and adopting her haughty demeanor, mocking and ridiculing her behind her back. It serves as both a coping mechanism and a means of momentarily escaping their reality. The role-playing games become increasingly elaborate and sadistic as the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur, hinting at deeper psychological disturbances forged by their social status and powerlessness.

Director Christopher Miles uses tight close-ups and fluid camera work to draw the viewer into the psychological tension that permeates the living quarters. His direction is subtle yet effective, allowing the powerful performances of the lead actors to drive the narrative. It's a film that relies heavily on dialogue and the nuanced expressions of its characters, and both Jackson and York rise to the occasion, delivering multi-layered portrayals filled with longing, loathing, and despair.

As Solange and Claire, they grapple with their identities, both as individuals and within the societal structures that bind them. Their relationship with one another is complex and ambivalent, filled with affection, jealousy, and a shared desire for liberation. Their interactions with Madame are equally complicated, shaped by a deep-seated resentment intertwined with a twisted form of loyalty.

The film also interrogates themes such as the role of women in society, the dehumanizing effects of servitude, and the psychological impact of inequality. Genet's play is known for its exploration of these themes, and the film adaptation remains faithful to the original material, even as it brings its own cinematic interpretations to the fore.

While The Maids is set in a specific time and place, its exploration of power dynamics and the consequences of oppression are universal, providing commentary that remains relevant to contemporary audiences. The film stands out for its stark portrayal of the hidden lives of domestic workers and the emotional and psychological toll of their roles.

Vivien Merchant's performance as Madame is another highlight of the film. She embodies the patronizing and capricious nature of her character, providing a stark contrast to the vulnerability and intensity that Jackson and York bring to their roles. Her presence, though less frequent on screen compared to the maids, is pivotal in underscoring the social hierarchy and the emotional distance between the world of the wealthy and those who serve them.

Technically, the film brings together elements that reinforce its intense, confined atmosphere. The production design meticulously recreates the luxurious yet oppressive environment where the maids' story unfolds. The soundtrack, while minimalist, effectively punctuates the tension and adds an additional layer to the psychological landscape of the characters.

The Maids is not a conventional narrative film; it is a challenging watch that demands attention and engagement from the viewer. It is a cerebral and emotionally intense exploration of humanity, positioned at the intersection of servitude and rebellion. Challenging and thought-provoking, The Maids is a testament to the enduring power of Genet's work and a showcase for the extraordinary talents of its leading actors.

The Maids is a 1975 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 35 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.3.

The Maids
Where to Watch The Maids
The Maids is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime and Amazon. Some platforms allow you to rent The Maids for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 35 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.3  (573)