With “Les Papillons noirs” on Arte, it’s sleepless nights guaranteed

With "Les Papillons noirs" on Arte, it's sleepless nights guaranteed

When Albert, masterfully performed by Niels Arestrup, feels the reaper close, he decides to write his memoirs. And what memories! In his youth, with Solange, the love of his life, he was a serial killer… He then called on Mody, a dented young author played by Nicolas Duvauchelle who, after having had a dazzling success with a first thriller, dried up in front of a white sheet and sinks gently into the depression. So when the old man summons him for this strange proposal, he doesn’t hesitate long.

“Les Papillons noirs” is a story of encounters. First of all, Solange and Albert, two bastards, two children of shame. She is the daughter of a shorn woman who became a prostitute, was given up to him as a baby and was never adopted. And Albert to tell Mody how these two shattered beings loved each other madly and how he, one day, committed the irreparable. And not just once. Because Solange, as beautiful as she is radiant, caught the eye. When a young man tried to rape her on the beach, Albert murdered him.

“Their first crime was an accident. The second, a calculation,” writes Mody. “The deadly summers will follow one another”, continues the writer, who little by little gets caught up in Albert’s game. And if the life of Solange and Albert became his next thriller? The infernal spiral begins… The game between the two men becomes diabolical. By exploring the murderous past of the dying man, by familiarizing himself with his memories, doesn’t the already fragile author risk losing himself?

A dazzling cast

Once Mody and Albert have entered our lives, it is impossible to let go of this masterful six-episode mini-series. Between past and present, it recounts the intriguing relationship between the lost writer and his confessor, a brilliant and solitary character, but also the passionate and bloody odyssey through France in the 1970s of Solange and Albert.

Literary, romantic and addictive, “Les Papillons noirs” is carried by a skewer of exceptional actors. Nicolas Duvauchelle and Niels Arestrup of course, but also all the others. Starting with Axel Granberger, excellent in the role of young Albert and who logically received the prize for best actor in a French series at the Series Mania 2022 festival. Alyzée Costes, who plays Solange, is dazzling.

Of course, some scenes are bloody and may shock sensitive souls. But all the talent of the creators Olivier Abbou and Bruno Merle is to have stylized this violence. There is a bit of David Lynch in them. The atmosphere and the decorations, which plunge us back into the tangy period of the seventies, are particularly successful. As much as the current scenes are dark and oppressive, those of the 1970s, although the bloodiest, are luminous and volcanic, like Solange.

“Les Papillons noirs” is also available as a novel. In real life, Mody, alias Nicolas Duvauchelle on screen, is called Gabriel Katz and he is a thriller author for the prestigious Masque collection: “I am the writer in the shadow of a writer from the ‘shadow that does not exist’. At the request of the series creators, he wrote the thriller about the life of Albert and Solange which is central to the on-screen plot. This paper version, “Les Papillons noirs” (Le Masque, 260 p., 19.90 euros), is also a little nugget that puts you in the shoes of serial killers and that you can’t let go. So should we start with the series or the thriller? It’s up to you, both are great!

Editor’s note:

The Black Butterflies », mini-series by Bruno Merle and Olivier Abbou with Nicolas Duvauchelle, Niels Arestrup, Axel Ganberger, Alyzée Costes, Alice Belaïdi Sami Bouajila… 6 episodes of 50 minutes. Available on Arte.tv, it will be broadcast on Thursdays September 22 and 29 on Arte.

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