“Augustine” is the (fictionalized) story In the late 19th century of a real neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot (Vincent Lindon), who was exploring a cure for ‘female hysteria’ using hypnosis and the science of the nervous system in Paris. Two years ago there was a (fictionalized) story from Britain about a real physician Mortimer Granville, who was exploring the cure for female hysteria in the late 19th Century, with a film called “Hysteria”. The latter was a romantic comedy and the former a dark drama.
“Augustine”, the title character played by a French singer-actress Soko, is dark in more than the screenplay by Alice Winocour, who also directed, with extraneous scenes and not enough explanation of what caused Augustine’s hysteria (except maybe that at 19 she still hadn’t menstruated) or how Charcot cured her. He seems to have been a dour ‘showboater’ who didn’t have feelings for anyone which makes the one scene he does show feeling fall flat. He uses Augustine for demonstrations and to acquire funding for his studies while she is being awakened to her sexuality and falling in love with her doctor.
The photography by George Lechaptois, certainly under the direction of Winocour, is too dark in many scenes to the point that you really have no idea what is going on and, in some cases, who are in the scene.
Lindon is cold, showing very little feeling even to his wealthy wife Constance, played on just the right key by Chiara Mastroianni while Soko embodies the 19 year old illiterate, voluptuous Augustine. Most of the other actors play minor roles with Olivier Rabourdin, playing the medical hypnotist working with Charcot, the only one with enough screen time to be noticed. Roxane Duran, playing Rosalie, a friend of Augustine’s at the beginning of the movie, is forgotten almost as soon as Charcot comes on the screen, and you forget she was in the movie.
“Augustine” does accomplish the fact that you want to know more about Jean-Martin Charcot and whether Augustine is a real person sending you to google and bing them, in which case there is no need to see the movie.