Footwear In Cinema: What Catherine Deneuve's Shoes In Belle De Jour Tell Us About Her Character
1967 marked the release of Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour, a film adaptation of a 1928 book of the same title. The narrative orbits around a pious wife gone wild in clandestine adventures. French actress Catherine Deneuve plays the main character Séverine Serizy, wife of the handsome Dr Pierre Serizy played by Jean Sorel. Despite loving her husband deeply, Séverine cannot get herself to be involved with him sexually and succumbs to daytime fantasies.
Throughout many different scenes in this film, the camera seems to give special attention to Séverine's shoes, leaving us to muse on the symbolism of each pair of heels. Let's have a look:
The film begins with a scene of our female protagonist, dress beautifully in red, dragged by men into a forest. Her shiny black pumps are smeared with mud as two men tie her up and proceed to take advantage of her, at the command of her husband. We quickly learn that the shocking scene is nothing but Séverine's own imagination—and only one of several of such fantasies in the movie. In this dream sequence, however, the dirt on her shoes holds great significance in the meaning of her fantasy. Séverine's heels here are an object of care, very much like her prim persona that seems to bound her. Smeared with mud, her sacred image is desecrated but her desires, liberated.
In an attempt to escape from her bondage, Séverine eventually joins a high-end brothel. Walking into the Parisian apartment in her lustrous heels with golden buckles, she is greeted by her new colleagues who are impressed with her fashion and call her “elegant”.
At her new workplace, Séverine explores men of different shapes, tastes and sexual kinks. Hesitant and haunted by her dark childhood, however, she refuses to serve her first customer, but a slap and throw to the bed by her anger customer unexpectedly fulfils her libido. In this scene, Séverine is once again wearing her Roger Vivier pumps, paralleling with the fantasies she had in which her ego was desecrated. At the same time, the heels remind us of who she really is despite her current situation—that is, the wife of Dr Pierre Serizy.
See also: Queer Cinema Beyond Homosexuality