Saint Omer (2022) - full transcript

Follows Rama, a novelist who attends the trial of Laurence Coly at the Saint-Omer Criminal Court to use her story to write a modern-day adaptation of the ancient myth of Medea, but things don't go as expected. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food


You were calling for your mother.


You were saying, "Mom, Mom."

Don't be ridiculous.

Wait, please.

They are young.

They are heroes with no imagination.

They shave my head carefully
till they're done.

They believe it's their duty
to shave the women's heads well.

Are you ashamed for them, my love?


You are dead.

I'm far too busy suffering.

Night falls.

All I hear is the sound of scissors
cutting my hair.

It slightly eases the pain of your death.

Oh the pain!

The pain in my heart...
it's unbelievable.

All around,
they're singing the Marseillaise.

My father's drug store is closed
because of the disgrace.

I am alone.

Some of them laugh.

At night, I return home.

This week's class will focus
on the work of Marguerite Duras.

More precisely,

how the author
uses the power of her narrative

to sublimate reality.

The images you have just seen...

I chose to link their direct violence

and full on historic significance,
to the shaved-headed woman that Duras

creates in Hiroshima, my love,

to demonstrate how the author
managed to transform the shock

and feeling of revolt
in the face of these acts,

which were commonplace
at the end of the war,

into an almost lyrical song.

Listening to the text,

the author's intention is crystal clear.

This woman is humiliated,


branded like a prisoner,

all be it temporarily
as hair does grow back,

but branded forever on her memory

and that of those around her.

This woman, an object of shame,

becomes, thanks to the author's words,

not only a heroine

but a human being in a state of grace.


- Hello, Mrs. Fall.
- Hello, Adrien.

- How are you?
- I'm OK.


Hi, Tenning.

You OK?

I'd better check on the food.

I'll come with you.

Here's your medication, Mom.

Don't worry, Mom, it's nothing.

I'm really enjoying this.

- So I see.
- Bravo.

- It's delicious.
- Thank you.

Adrien, tell me about your work.

It's going really well.

It was our bass player's birthday
at the last concert.

The audience sang Happy Birthday to him.

He was thrilled.

We're doing alright.

We have work.

Touch wood.

How about you, Rama,
is the new book coming on well?

- And you?
- I'm OK.

A bit tired from work, but I'm OK.

It doesn't show, you look well.

- Good.
- Those earrings really suit you.

- That's true.
- Thank you.

You don't often wear earrings,
they suit you.

Where are you going on holiday this year?

I don't think we'll go away this year.

We have some major work
to do on the house.

What kind of work?

Nothing very important.

Nothing very important, yeah.


By the way,

can you take Mom to physio on Monday?
I finish too late.

I can't on Monday.
I'm in meetings all day.

How about you, Rama,

- can you take her?
- No, I can't.

You could make an effort.

But I can't. I won't be here.

There's Dad.

Do you remember that cousin?
We never see him.

- I think that's Uncle Bamba.
- I don't know.

Yeah, I think it's him.

There were so many of us!

Those were happy times.

You can't tell Dad was sick at the time.

It didn't show.

There's Mom. What memories.


Look at her!


There's Rama.

- Always calm.
- She was shy.


She was already a wild little thing.



Will you be OK?


- Call me when you arrive.
- OK.


All rise.

Please be seated.

Ask the journalists to leave.

Would all journalists please leave.

Bailiff, bring in the defendant.

Gentlemen, please remove the handcuffs.

Please state your full name,

date and place of birth
and your parents' full names.

My name is Laurence Coly.

I was born March 15, 1980,
in Dakar, Senegal.

My father's name is Robert Coly,

my mother's name, Odile Diatta.

What is your profession?

I'm a student.

At the time of your arrest,
you were living with Mr. Luc Dumontet,

at 29, Avenue du Général De Gaulle,
in Saint-Mandé.

- Is that correct, Ms. Coly?
- Yes.

You may be seated.

The court will now proceed
with jury selection.

If any of you, ladies and gentlemen,

are related to the defendant
or her family,

to any of the attorneys

or judges, you must say so now.

Juror number fifteen.

Mrs. Evelyne Pringent.

Born February 28, 1958, in Lille.

Lives in Saint-Omer.

Profession: Chartered accountant.


Juror number seventeen.

Mrs.Yasmina Belhadj.

Born June 22, 1990, in Paris.

Lives in Clairmarais.

Profession: Project manager.


Juror number eighteen.

Mrs. Sandrine Deportaire.

Born February 19, 1986, in Lille.

Lives in Armentières.

Profession: Nurse.

Please be seated.

Juror number twenty-one.

Mr. Julien Titrain.

Born August 9, 1986, in Calais...

Ms. Coly, please stand up.

Ms. Coly,

you are accused of the murder
of your 15-month-old daughter, Elise.

The indictment we will now read,
details the facts

that led to your arrest.

On November 11, 2015,

a man went into a police station
in Berck-sur-Mer.

He reported finding the body of a child
on the beach that morning.

He told the police officers
that while he was shore fishing,

he noticed a shape
washed up on the sand.

At first, he thought it was a seal.

He went over to it
and discovered the corpse of a child.

A medical examiner inspected the body

and confirmed that the corpse
was that of a little girl,

the cause of death:
drowning, suffocated by saltwater.

There were no toxic substances

or signs of abuse on the child's body.

The investigators first thought the child
was a migrant drowned in a shipwreck.

That same evening,

the manager of Les Embruns hotel
went to the police station.

He remembered a female guest and a child
who had spent a night at the hotel.

The name given by the guest
enabled the officers to search

the national immigration database.

The name was Ms. Laurence Coly,

living with Mr. Luc Dumontet,

at 29, Avenue du Général De Gaulle,
in Saint-Mandé,

in the Paris metropolitan area.

The officers went
to your place of residence

on November 20, 2015,

nine days after the corpse was found.

At first, you told them you'd sent
your daughter to your mother in Dakar

to give yourself time
to write your thesis.

You were informed that you were seen
with the child at the Gare du Nord,

on the beach
and at the hotel in Berck-sur-Mer.

Images from the CCTV cameras show

that you returned to Paris alone,

without the child.

This was when you confessed.

You told the detectives
that you killed your daughter because,

I quote, "It would make life easier."

You claimed to have committed the crime
after a violent clash with Mr. Dumontet.

You claimed to have left
your daughter on the beach

believing that the sea
would carry away her body.

You claimed to have been, I quote,

"Drawn into a tragic and vile venture."

And although you claim
to have Western values,

you describe "hallucinatory" phenomena

of which you claim to be the victim.

You talk of an "evil-eye,"

you say you were cursed
by your family in Senegal

and by Mr. Dumontet's family.

Ms. Coly,

do you know why you killed your daughter?

I don't know.

I hope this trial
will give me the answer.

- Do you accept the alleged facts?
- Yes, I do.

How do you plead?

I plead not guilty, Your Honor.

I don't think I'm the responsible party
in this case.

What do you mean by,
"I don't think I'm the responsible party?"

The two years before my daughter's death
were the worst of my life.

Ms. Coly,

we are here to try to understand,
you must explain.

Mrs. Coly, we will now talk
about you and your life.

You were born in Dakar.

Your mother, Odile Diatta, is unemployed
and your father,

Robert Coly,
a United Nations translator.

They were in a relationship
for seven years.

Could you tell us about your childhood?

Shortly after I was born, my father
left my mother for another woman.

I grew up with my mother
and my maternal grandmother.

I was very close to my grandmother,
she took care of me.

She was very affectionate with me.

I was devastated by her death.

She was called Elise,

like my daughter.

What were you like as a child?

Materially, I lacked for nothing.

We lived with others in a large house.

We were comfortable.

I think my childhood was quite ordinary.

Cousins, birthday parties,
baptisms, Christmases...

I was brought up as an only child.

They say I was chatty, jolly...

yet I remember sometimes,
I distanced myself from the others.

It worried my grandmother,
but I needed time alone.

I read a lot too.

I was mad about literature.

- Did you have friends?
- Not really.

Why do you think that was?

I don't know.

Perhaps because my parent's situation
was rather unusual.

Or because my mother
forbade me to speak Wolof.

It distanced me from the others.

Why were you forbidden to speak Wolof?

She wanted me to speak perfect French
and only French.

She wanted me to succeed in life.

She was obsessed by my education.

What about your father?

- Did you see him regularly?
- Yes, I did.

I went to his house
one Sunday per month.

My father is a calm person.

He can be severe, but...

he is sensitive and very cultured.

We share a taste for the arts.

With my mother, on the other hand,

you could say it's more charged.

- She is more hotheaded.
- Meaning?

How would you describe
your relationship with your mother?

When I was young,
my mother was often absent.

She worked hard, she was always tired.

Even if she had high expectations of me,

- there was always a distance between us.
- Meaning?

What do you mean by "distance"?

I don't know.

We don't have much in common.

We're not interested in the same things.

We are very different.

Your mother has lived in Italy
for several years.

She told the detectives

that you called each other regularly,
at least once a week.

This statement suggests

that you were close,
Ms. Coly, not distant.

I don't know.

We called each other because...

one has to call one's mother,
that's how it is.

Would you say you were a wanted child?

I don't know.

You should ask them,
it didn't feel that way.

What was your education like?

My education was classic, literary.

I attended the same Catholic school
all the way through.

I was a good student.

I knew what I wanted to study.

My father supported me.

I wanted to study law.

Why did you decide to come to France?

To get away from my parents.

You just described a happy childhood,

yet you wanted
to get away from your parents.

That's contradictory.

On the outside, everything was fine,
but it was oppressive.

My father

put a lot of pressure on me.

I am his only biological child.

I carried a lot of weight
on my shoulders.

As for my mother, like I said,

it was more or less the same thing.


I felt she was projecting
her own desires onto me.

Their obsession with my success
tormented me.

You came to France in 1998.

You lived with one of your maternal aunts

in the 5th arrondissement, in Paris.

How were your first years in Paris?

I stayed with my aunt for two years.

After that, I shared an apartment
with a cousin, Marthe.

My father paid the rent,

I attended university.

It should have gone well, but...

there were problems with Marthe.

She caused trouble,
she was jealous of me.

The year I spent with her was horrible.

At that time,
something inside me snapped.

After that...

I went back to Dakar for a while
for my grandmother's funeral.


everyone was weird around me.

They called me an Oreo

because I acted like
a white Parisian woman.

It was a very difficult trip.

I argued a lot with my mother.

She also said I had changed.

My only desire was to return to France,

but I didn't want to live
with my cousin again.

I went back to my aunt's place,

but I only stayed for three months.

I found a room
in exchange for child minding.

Yes, the mother of those children,
Mrs. Vincent,

said you were
very affectionate with them.

She said you were, "Kind, intelligent,"

it seems she really liked you.

I got on well with the children.

I looked after them for a few years,
then I stopped.

My father stopped sending me money.

He was disappointed that I decided
to do philosophy and not law.

He refused to support me.


When he found out...

Your father wasn't able
to attend your trial,

he claimed he had
an urgent job in Cameroun.

I will read an extract
from his statement.

"Laurence was an obedient,
intelligent and gifted child.

"Our relationship became complicated
when she went to France."

Your father mentions
an argument you had in 2002,

after which, you cut ties.

What was the argument about?

It was at Christmas, over the phone.

He'd found out
that I'd stopped attending university.

He was very cross.

I told him

I wanted to swap law for philosophy,
but he was against it.

He said he'd stop supporting me
if I didn't change my mind.

So that was when all ties were cut?


When your father stopped supporting you,

was that when things started
to go badly with Mrs. Vincent?

Yes, it was then.

I had no income.

I couldn't pay the rent
and my mother couldn't help me.

When Mrs. Vincent asked you to move out,

she says you emotionally blackmailed her.

That's not true.
I just asked her for some time.

I had to find a solution.

I didn't want to go back to my aunt's.

Was it at that time

that you moved in with Mr. Dumontet?


How did you meet him?

At a dinner at my aunt's place.

He knew her from Senegal.

I think my aunt had her eye on him.

What made you think that?

I don't know.

She seemed flattered
that he came to see her.

I always suspected it.

She flirted with him.

Luc always denied it when I asked him.

I think she invited me to impress him.

Having a well-educated niece
made her look good.

We spoke a lot that night.

Luc knew Senegal well,
he'd spent some time there.

He invited me to an exhibition
the next day.

We started to spend time together.

We got on well
despite our age difference.

He was 57,

I was 24.

Did you have any romantic relationships
before Mr. Dumontet?

The only relationship I've ever had
was with Mr. Dumontet.

Did you have sexual relations
with anyone other than Mr. Dumontet?


Did you both agree
that you'd live together?

I think Luc was reluctant.

But for me, living with him made sense,

I couldn't continue
living with Mrs. Vincent.


I spent all my time with him.

What did you know about Luc Dumontet
when you met him?

I knew he had spent time in Africa.

I knew he worked for
a major transport company,

that he'd left his job
to follow his passion, sculpture.

Shortly after we met,

he moved into an artist's studio
in St. Mandé.

Were you in love
when you decided to move in with him?


Was it at this time
that you went back to university?

Luc encouraged me to study again.

He offered to pay for my studies
so I could be independent later on.

When you moved in with Luc Dumontet,

did you know he had a daughter?

That he was still married?

Even if he wasn't living with them.


I knew from the start.

I saw his daughter
once or twice in St. Mandé.

I saw his wife once.

Any questions?

Counselor Vaudenay.

How was your relationship
with Mr. Dumontet's family

when you moved in with him?

He didn't introduce me to any of them.

Luc lunched with his wife once a week,
I had no say in it.

I don't know what he told her about me,
he wouldn't say.

I didn't exist when she was around.

He said they were just friends
but I didn't know if it was true.

I wasn't invited
to his daughter's wedding,

but he did ask me to cook the meal.

When the reception began at the studio,
Luc booked me into a hotel.

He slipped me out through the back door.

No further questions, Your Honor.

Ms. Coly, at what point

did your relationship with Mr. Dumontet
start to deteriorate?

Certain facts distanced me from him.

What do you mean?

I had visions.

A flash.

About a secret of his.

A secret he keeps to himself.

You didn't mention that
during the investigation.

You described recurrent harassment,

disdain, indifference, lack of interest.

Those were your grievances.

In addition, you resented him
for visiting his brother in Auvergne.


I meant it was Luc's attitude
and behavior that puzzled me.

Parties or birthdays spent with the wife
he had supposedly left, not with me.

It was as if...

someone or something
wanted to distance him from me.

Did you want a child?


- Did you use contraception?
- No, we had sex sporadically.

When Luc Dumontet noticed the pregnancy,
you told him you wouldn't terminate it.


When Luc found out,
it was too late for an abortion.

I didn't get pregnant on purpose
as he told the investigator.

Throughout my entire pregnancy,

he kept looking at me, saying

"What will you do?",
never "What will we do?"

I said to him,

"Don't worry,

"you'll still have your life,

"you'll still deny my existence
and that of the child,"

he always found a way to do that.

You may sit down.

Mr. Dumontet, come forward please.

The court will hear you.

Mr. Dumontet, with hindsight,

how do you explain what Ms. Coly did?

It's incomprehensible, Your Honor.

What Laurence did is incomprehensible.

She was a wonderful mother,
the way she took care of Lili...

She massaged her every day.

Lili was loved by both of us.

Laurence Coly said earlier

that you were reluctant
for her to move in with you.

Do you agree with that?


I was somewhat surprised
about the way it happened

but I welcomed her gladly.

We agreed on a three-year period,

so that she could finish her studies
and find work as a university lecturer.

That was our agreement.

For the most part,
I believe we got on well.

I would go as far as to say
that we were happy.

At least in the beginning.

We went out a lot.

I was proud to have a woman like her
by my side.

Sometimes, when she spoke

about her struggles with the thesis,

I admit, I didn't understand anything,

I couldn't help her, but...

I was very impressed by

how knowledgeable she was.


I should add that

Laurence is a very difficult person.

She is extremely jealous of everyone.

Whenever a woman spoke to me,

she became paranoid, crazy.

She could stay angry for days

and give me the silent treatment.

Her silence was very aggressive.

She often told me that if she felt
I'd become too old and helpless,

she would leave me.

I took it for granted
that she'd leave me one day.

Would you say
you had a romantic relationship

with Ms. Coly?


Yes, I think it was a love affair

that went wrong and I don't know why.

But it was a love affair.

We conceived a child whom we both adored.

And despite Laurence's temper,

when the three of us lay in bed,

I felt like the happiest man alive.

Yet you never introduced Ms. Coly
to your friends or family.

You told nobody about Elise's birth.

How do you explain that?

I thought Laurence
was embarrassed about us,

she kept saying I was too old,
I didn't want to push her.

And her jealousy...

I was always afraid
she'd take things the wrong way,

so I avoided certain subjects.

And it was better for Elise, too.

It was simpler for everyone.

You said your relationship deteriorated

before the child's birth.

Didn't you think about contraception?


Laurence told me that due to an illness
she didn't need it.

Didn't you notice her pregnancy?

When did you realize she was pregnant?

Of course I had my suspicions.

But when I asked her,
she systematically denied it.

When she did tell me, it was too late.

I was away a lot.

I went to Clermont often
to visit my brother

who was dying.

Strangely, we were getting on better
at that time.

Laurence seemed calmer.

Then in August,
after one of those visits,

when I returned, Lili was there.

How did you feel when you arrived home
and saw the child?

I was shocked.

I was shocked to find Laurence
in bed with a baby,

I was shocked she hadn't called me.

Yet, I had returned

two days before the delivery date
she had given me.

Soon afterwards, Laurence told me
Lili had to go to Senegal

while she finished her studies
and found a job.

She said I was too old
to look after a baby properly,

that her mother was in Dakar
and would look after Lili.

Your Honor, if I may,

I'd like to talk about Lili.
Nobody has mentioned her.

I'd like to talk about her,
I took care of her.

Each morning, weather permitting,
I took her to the Bois de Vincennes.

The nannies would see me,

one of them would peek into the stroller

and tell me how cute she was.

One day, I...

I was heavy handed with Lili,
it was nothing,

Laurence was furious,
she accused me of not loving her.

I said I'd get a divorce, marry her,
that I'd do anything for her and Lili.

But during her pregnancy,

did you look after Ms. Coly?

Did you go with her to the scans
or doctor's appointments?

No, I didn't know how to,
we didn't do that.

When I had my daughter,
men didn't do those things.

Nor did you acknowledge paternity.

What's more, the first time
the detectives called you,

you answered the phone and you told them,

"Yes, a child lives here,
but I'm not the father."

You told them
it was your girlfriend's daughter.

How do you explain that, Mr. Dumontet?

Laurence always said to me,
"She's mine, she's mine."

When I asked her
if she'd registered the child,

she said she had, but in her name.

I thought perhaps it was for the better,

that it would be complicated for Lili

to bear the name Dumontet, in Senegal.

You never mentioned Lili
to your eldest daughter, Adeline?

I thought it was
too complicated to explain,

she'd just given birth herself...

When Ms. Coly returned without Lili,
you had packed up her baby clothes

to donate them to charity.

You didn't tell a soul about her birth.

You never questioned her mother's decision
to send the child to Senegal.

Ms. Coly claims
you didn't care about Lili and her.

Neither did you attend
the child's funeral.

How should we interpret all that,
Mr. Dumontet?

I don't know.

I don't know.

The funeral was too far away,

I couldn't go there.

The idea of Lili's death
was rather abstract for me.

It's hard to grasp.

I don't know, I don't know!

Does the Prosecuting Attorney
have any questions?

Mr. Dumontet, I do not doubt

your good intentions towards Ms. Coly.

When she moved in with you,
her situation was critical.

She was jobless, homeless,

she wasn't even studying.
You took her in.

You found her a job,
enabled her to go back to her studies,

you even funded her studies.

What didn't you do for this woman?

And she...

in return,

I would love to know
what Ms. Coly gave you.

While I don't doubt
your love for this woman,

did she not move in with you
purely out of self-interest?

No, I don't think so.

I believe we were genuinely in love.


Mr. Dumontet, do you believe you have
moral responsibility in this case?


I am responsible for everything.

I blame myself for everything,
I didn't protect Lili.

I am paying for that.
I can never make amends.

I've lost everything.
My life is worthless.

My gown is black, Mr. Dumontet, not red.

My role is not to judge you.

But I will talk of your cowardice,

your lack of involvement
in your daughter's birth.

You didn't want the pregnancy.

You didn't want the child.

You had no intention
of changing your life in any way.

You claim to speak of Lili,
but you speak only of yourself.

Laurence Coly's distress
was staring you in the face,

but you chose to turn a blind eye,

because you didn't want to see it.

Because you didn't care.

Thank you, Mr. Dumontet.

Stand up, Ms. Coly.

Ms. Coly,

how are your prison conditions?

It's calm.

For the first three months,

I didn't leave my cell.

I was afraid to go out alone.


it was only after two or three months,

that I began to have contact with others.

The report from Sequedin prison
describes you as calm,

smiling, undemanding and very respectful.


Generally speaking,
my imprisonment is very dignified.

A few months after your arrival,

you mentioned some bullying.

A woman who has killed her baby

can't really expect any sympathy.

I shared their horror.

The hearing is adjourned.

- Excuse me, I don't know your name.
- Rama.

Pleased to meet you.

This is my hotel.

Mine is a bit further on.

- See you tomorrow.
- Yes.

I would have liked us
to eat together tonight,

but it's a little late
and I need to sleep.

Of course.

We could have lunch tomorrow
if you want.

OK. With pleasure.

See you tomorrow.

Good evening.

- Hello, Jean-Claude.
- Hi, Rama.

Sorry, I didn't have time
to call you back earlier.

Don't worry, it's OK.

How is the trial? What is she like?

She sounds fascinating.

The press says she talks
in a very sophisticated French.

She talks like an educated woman,
that's all.

That's true, you're right.

So, it went really well this morning.

Everyone is raving about your project.

They're just not sure about the title.

They think "Medea Castaway"
isn't very evocative.

Not everyone knows the story of Medea.

They think it should refer to the trial.

I told them it was a working title.

But doesn't everyone know
the story of Medea?

Well, OK.

I'm not at all worried, you go for it.

I'll read it when you're ready.
I just wanted to give you the news

and to tell you we're thrilled
with the sales of your last book.

We received the figures,
it's very impressive.

We were well received by the press.

That's great. Wonderful.

Come see me when you get back.

We'll have lunch.

With pleasure. Thank you for the update.

Well, see you soon.

- See you soon.
- Goodbye.

He didn't introduce me to anyone.

Luc lunched with his wife once a week,
I had no say in it.

I don't know what he told her about me,
he wouldn't say.

I didn't exist when she was around.

He said they were just friends
but I didn't know if it was true.

I wasn't invited
to his daughter's wedding,

but he did ask me to cook the meal.

When the party began at the studio,
Luc booked me into a hotel.

He slipped me out through the back door.

She was a wonderful mother,

the way she took care of Lili...

She massaged her every day.

Lili was loved by both of us.

Laurence said earlier, that you were
reluctant for her to move in with you.

Do you agree?

How would you describe
your relationship with your mother?

When I was young,
my mother was often absent.

She worked hard, she was always tired.

Even if she had high expectations of me,

- there was always a distance between us.
- Meaning?

What do you mean by "distance"?

I don't know.

We don't have much in common.

We're not interested in the same things.

We are very different.

Stand up, Ms. Coly.

Ms. Coly,

you often refer
to the extreme loneliness

of your situation before Elise's birth.

How did you spend your days?

You no longer went to classes,
what did you do?

I had never felt so low
as the year before Lili's birth.

I was becoming very depressed.

I spent hours walking in the woods.

I liked walking in the woods,
nobody bothered me there.

In the studio,
the silence was different.

I was afraid to be alone there.

What were you afraid of?

The atmosphere was becoming hostile.

For months,
I couldn't get out of bed in the morning.

I couldn't lift my head up,
I suffered from headaches.

And from blurred vision.

I heard strange noises
like echoes in the walls.

My feet were throbbing, I couldn't walk.

When I talked to Luc about it,
he didn't want to know,

he didn't listen to me.

He was obsessed with his sick brother,
he ignored me.

Did you consult a doctor?

I saw a physiotherapist
and an osteopath, but that didn't help.

Sorcery was the only logical conclusion.

I consulted various

clairvoyants by telephone,
everything they said made sense.

So I trusted them.

Yet the investigation found

that none of the clairvoyants
you supposedly consulted remembers you.

The officers found no trace

of any financial transactions.

Neither do your telephone records
show any trace of the calls.

But I did call them.

I'm surprised they don't remember me.

I called one every day at 7 a.m.
Her name is Patricia.

Patricia Antonia testified.

She doesn't remember you.

I don't know why she says that.

I told her everything.

I felt she understood me.

When I told her about my dream

in which giant butterflies
invaded the studio, she got it.

She said people wanted to hurt me.

How is there no proof?

Not a single telephone record.

I don't know.

You say your problems began
one year before Elise was born.

Roughly the time Elise was conceived,
is that correct?

Yes, perhaps. That might be so.

I don't remember the dates.

Did you deliberately conceal
your pregnancy?

I acted as if I wasn't pregnant,
I didn't try to conceal it.

When you fell pregnant,
did you consult a doctor?

I didn't see a doctor,
I didn't tell anyone.

Tell us about the birth.

Lili was born at the studio, I was alone.

Why didn't you go to hospital?

I don't know, I was in a black hole.

I didn't go out.

I didn't see anyone.

I was afraid, I wanted to protect Lili.

Protect her from what?

From malicious intent.

What was your frame of mind
just before the birth?

I was worried.

I was scared of not succeeding.

Had you prepared for the birth?


I think I prepared for it at some point.

I researched how to do it.

I asked my mom, without telling her why,
how to care for a newborn.

Lili was born during the night.

On August 9, 2014, at 4:44 a.m.

Did you feel alone?

When I had the first contractions,

I could feel she was coming.

I was agitated but...

it was a special moment for me.

When she was born, I was in awe.

I was entranced by that tiny creature.

Didn't you worry that this secret birth
might go wrong?

Lili didn't seem to be in trouble.

She barely cried.

There was this incredible serenity
about her.

When you felt the first contractions,

why didn't you inform Luc Dumontet?

Luc was in Auvergne.

Yet he'd promised to be with me.

- Did you tell him the date?
- Yes.

Yet in your statement

you said you weren't sure
of the date of conception.

I knew when my daughter was conceived.

Luc promised
he'd be back in time for the birth.

When Lili was born,

you didn't call Mr. Dumontet
to tell him to come.

I didn't think it was necessary.

I wanted that moment for myself.

What did you tell him when he came back
and saw you with Lili?

Luc arrived,

he saw me holding a baby.

He came over and looked at the child.

He seemed



When he finally spoke, he said,

"Are you sure she's mine?"

I said to him, "Don't worry,

"she's mine."

I was upset he questioned his paternity
so I said she was mine.

I was in a state of beatitude
and his words were so vulgar,

I found it deeply insulting.

What did you tell him about the birth?

That I'd given birth
at Les Bluets clinic.

You told him

that you had registered Lili's birth.

Why didn't you do so?

I didn't register her

because I gave birth at home,

because I never left the studio,

and because it didn't even occur to me.

Luc asked me if I'd registered her,
I don't know why I lied.

What was your life with Elise like?

At first, I didn't take her out.

My days were structured around her.

She was calm, she barely cried.

My routine was shaped by Lili's needs.

- Did you breastfeed her?
- Yes.

When did you take her out of the studio?

I didn't take her out
for at least six months.

Luc was a bit more present at that time,

as soon as Lili could hold her head up,

he began to take her out.

But you,
nobody ever saw you with the baby.

Nobody saw me pregnant or with the baby.

I barely left the studio.

Did you buy any baby equipment?

Not much.

A few child care items,

a bouncy chair, baby clothes.

Keeping her birth a secret,

was that a decision
you took with Luc Dumontet?

I don't remember it that way.

- Why didn't he tell anyone?
- I don't know.

Early on, you told him that
your mother would take Lili to Senegal.

I said it as he was worried.

You told him, "She's mine."

Did you decide Lili's future all alone?

The plan to send her to Senegal?

I said that because
Luc didn't want a child at the studio.

- Was Lili ever sick?
- No.

Yes, she was.

She had chicken pox.

Did you take her to the doctor?


Does the Prosecuting Attorney
have any questions?

Ms. Coly, you have strung us along
from the start.

You distance yourself
from the questions asked.

You avoid the awkward questions
and you lie to us.

Do you take us for fools?

You didn't love Luc Dumontet.

You didn't want a child with him,
you didn't want the pregnancy.

You deliberately concealed
the child's existence.

You told nobody about her,
not even your mother.

The truth...

is that you killed the child
because she got in your way.

That's nonsense.
Can you read my mind or my heart?

You think as I might get a life sentence
I'm going to lie?

What have I got to lose?

Please, ma'am, sorcery?

You are lying to yourself.

Yes, I speak of sorcery.

Why would I torment myself like that?

Killing my daughter

ruined my life.

Am I merely being dishonest?

When I speak of sorcery, I'm not lying.

Not even a dead-drunk idiot
would have done what I did.

And they say I'm intelligent.

So why did I do it?


Hello, this is reception.
A lady is asking for you.


Hello, are you ready to order?

Hello, I'll have the carpaccio.

- And you?
- Steak and fries.


That's a lot.

Why don't you have the fish?

And half a pint, please.

- I'll be right back.
- Thank you.

This must be hard for you.

Well, I trust in God.

Have you seen all the press coverage?

It's incredible.

Laurence should be careful.

She was rude this morning.

I don't understand
why her attorney didn't advise her.

It makes a bad impression.

Education and politesse
are the two most important things.

That's how I raised Laurence.

And it always helped her.

People talk about her appearance
and the way she talks.

That means she was well brought up.

- Here you are.
- Thank you.

- Were you born here?
- Yes.

Are your parents here too?

My father's dead but my mother is here.

- Any brothers or sisters?
- I have two sisters.

How many months pregnant are you?

Four months.

I guessed as soon as I saw you.

I'm very good at that.

Here you are.

Enjoy your meal.

No, I said I was planning
to do a thesis.

I never said I was a PhD student.

That's not entirely true, Ms. Coly.

From the start,
you claimed to be a PhD student.

That's what you told everyone,
the police,

Luc Dumontet, your family.

I attended the classes,
for me, it was the same thing.

Mrs. Jobard,

you stated that Ms. Coly,
didn't complete her degree.

That's right.
She didn't complete the year

because she didn't hand in her work.

She sent me an email
saying that she couldn't do it

as she was in hospital in Senegal,
but I didn't believe that.

Ms. Coly?

I don't remember saying that.

What was Ms. Coly like as a student?

What struck me was the ease
and eloquence of her speech

compared to her written work.

She spoke with ease,
but on the page, she wasn't convincing,

as if her thoughts weren't clear.

Ms. Coly,

you claimed to be writing a thesis
on Wittgenstein, the philosopher.

Why Wittgenstein?

I don't know.

Mrs. Jobard,
what do you make of this choice?

She is making it up.

What is curious is that Wittgenstein's
is a philosophy of language,

but I think she is hiding behind
a philosophy that is not about her.

What do you mean by,
"A philosophy that is not about her?"

Isn't it rather odd, an African woman
interested in an Austrian philosopher

from the early 20th century, why not
choose someone closer to her own culture?

Thank you, Mrs. Jobard.

You must remain standing
during the proceedings, ma'am.

The university told the investigators

you obtained a general studies diploma
after two years.

After that,
you enrolled for a bachelor's degree,

but you didn't complete it.
So you only have the general diploma.

If you say so.

I told you I attended the classes.

I thought I had a bachelor's degree.

Surely you knew
you didn't have a bachelor's degree.

You didn't turn up for any of the exams.

I was caught in a web of lies
at that time.

Later on, it collapsed.

Any questions?

Ms. Coly, are you talented?

I don't know.

- As a child, were you a good student?
- Yes.

Were you a perfect little girl,
overidealized in your parents' eyes?

I don't know, you should ask them.

What were your secret ambitions
when you came to France?

I wanted to leave my mark.

I've always been impressed
by the great thinkers

who shed light on the world
through their thoughts.

I dreamed of becoming
a great philosopher.

My ambition was cut short.

Certain things

made me stray from my path.

No further questions.

Counselor Darcourt, we are listening.

Ms. Coly,

you mentioned a web of lies.

Have you escaped from it now?

Isn't the death of my daughter enough?

I consider your reply intolerable,
it is not worthy.

And it is unacceptable in a courthouse!

- Sir, I am being frank.
- It is hard to understand you.

Your persistent ambiguity...

I'm not being ambiguous.
Some things, we can't be clear about.


If I'm lying, I can't know why.

Mrs. Diatta,
I'd like to ask you a few questions.

Mrs. Diatta.

When Laurence was pregnant, you spoke
twice a week, yet she didn't tell you.

How do you explain that?

Mrs. Diatta?

Why do you think she didn't tell you?

Both during the pregnancy
and after the child was born,

you never heard any crying or babbling?


She didn't tell me.

I don't understand.

That void, the void inside her,

it was made deliberately.

Before you Westerners,

I can't explain it.

Explain what, Mrs. Diatta?

I came to wonder,
who they wanted to hurt in this case,


her father, or me?

It was all orchestrated.

I can hear you smiling.

But it doesn't make me laugh.

Sorcery was involved, I promise you.

A curse even.

Since my daughter left Senegal,
nothing went well for her.

In my opinion,
nothing else can explain her failure.

I even have proof of mystical blockages.

It was no accident that I couldn't
see my daughter for two years.

How about that?

How do you explain that?

Would the bailiff bring in
the investigating judge,

Mr. Simon Jonquet.

Sir, you were assigned
to investigate Mrs. Coly's case

when the Public Prosecutor
brought her before the court.

You interviewed her
on November 20, 2015.

How did the issue of sorcery
come up during the interview?

Before me is a woman who killed her baby
in circumstances that are shocking

by our standards.

I tried to ascertain whether
the cultural aspect played a part.

I wondered if there was something
she couldn't say

and asked her to draw on her culture
to try to explain.

Sir, do you not think
that you opened the door to sorcery

and that Ms. Coly dived in?

Before me stood a woman
of African origin.

I tried to understand her
with the available elements.

As with Female Genital Mutilation,

we cannot judge without taking
the ethnological aspect into account.

Sir, the example of FGM
has true cultural value,

killing one's child has none.

I will be frank, sir,

I have here, the interview transcripts.

P32, file reference 421.
It is 3:52 p.m.

You ask her a question, I quote,

"Ms. Coly,
do not be ashamed of your culture,

"if it might help us
to understand your actions."

She replies, "I am a Cartesian thinker,
I don't believe in all that."

Ms. Coly begins to evoke
hallucinatory phenomena

and says she believes her aunts
may have put a curse on her.

Do you not think you handed her
an easy defense strategy?

And possibly even worse,

that you let her become stuck
with the idea of sorcery?

I strongly oppose that idea.

I stuck scrupulously
to the rules of criminal procedure.

I'd like to read you a few extracts
from a conversation recorded

at Sequedin prison, between Ms. Coly
and her mother, Mrs. Diatta.

Ms. Coly says,

"The investigating judge
is buying into it."

Mrs. Diatta replies, "What do you mean?"

Laurence Coly replies,

"The investigating judge
believes it was sorcery.

"I'm not your run of the mill
infanticide mother,

"that bothers them.

"What's funny is that I killed my child,

"but not in the way people usually do.

"Before I get a 30-year sentence,

"they must know who really killed her."


Hello, this is Adrien's phone...

It's me...

Ms. Coly,

stand up.

Ms. Coly,

what was your state of mind on that day?

Why did you decide to take the train

to travel to Berck-sur-Mer
at that precise moment?

Why did I take the train then?

One might be tempted to say,
"She's growing up,

"it's getting complicated,"
but that's not a reason.

Why Berck?

Why the sea?

Because the tide was high enough
at that time of year.

The tide was very high that day.

I had decided to go to Berck
the previous evening.

I took a train there.

I boarded a bus.

I asked a charming lady
which hotel was closest to the sea.

She told me.

She was a tourist guide.

I arrived at the hotel.

I dropped my things off.

I think I played with Lili for a while.

I fed her.

At around 9 p.m., it was dark enough.

It was high tide.

The moon rose before me,

lighting the path like a spotlight.

I knew the path from the hotel
led to the beach, so I took it.

It was pitch black
when I got to the beach.

I rocked her.

I breastfed her.

Lili was content.

She fell asleep in my arms.

So I laid her on the beach.


as she didn't react or make a noise,

I left.

I imagined the sea
would carry her body away.

I went back to the hotel.

That night, I slept like a log.

I barely dreamt.

Ms. Coly,

when you went down to the beach
that night,

were you absolutely sure
that the tide was rising?


I saw the sea coming.

When you were first
questioned by the police, you said

that you entered the water,
that the water came up to your knees.

Later on,

you said you couldn't remember
going into the water.

That's true.

I don't remember.

Prosecuting Attorney.


your amnesia is very convenient.

The water up to your knees,
that you say you forgot,

sheds a much harsher light
on the story you have just told.

Ms. Coly, you are not
on the stage of some theatre,

you are in a court of law.

The moon that lights your path
like a spotlight,

the sea that will carry away her body...

The truth is

if the sea had carried away her body,

nobody would have known

that a little girl, called Elise,
had disappeared,

because nobody knew that Elise existed.

Everything had been set up
so nobody would know she had died.

You condemned her to anonymity
from the moment she was born.

Nobody saw you pregnant.

You never took her out.

Lili's existence was a total secret
from beginning to end.

You have one new message,
received today at 1:19 p.m.

I didn't see the child.

What child?

The child, Lili...

I didn't see her.

I didn't even think about her.

I was obsessed with her, with Laurence.

You can't stay here.

Rama, listen...

this case has nothing to do with you,

or with us.

I'm scared I'll be like her.

Like who?

Like my mother.

Your mother is a broken woman.

She is scarred by her own life.

That's not you.

That's not your life.

Members of the jury, this is the story

of a phantom woman.

A woman whom nobody sees.

Whom nobody knows.

It's the story of a slow disappearance.

A tragic descent into hell,
into which a mother led her child.

This woman committed the worst crime.


She killed her daughter
and she admits it.

It is unbearable for us,
beyond comprehension.

A mother who allows herself to kill
the child she's cherished for 15 months.

It is easier to see her as a monster.

A monster must be overcome.

So you open the volumes of Penal Law
and you find her guilty.

But if you do that, members of the jury,

you will have handed down a judgement,

but you won't have delivered justice.

You will have answered
only the easiest question.

Not the one that, as jury members,
you should be asking yourselves.

If you can't ask yourself this question,

you will stay on the beach,

staggered by the horror of the crime.


What made Laurence Coly
kill her daughter

whom she had loved
and taken care of so well?

Why didn't she kill her at birth?

Why did Elise die?

Elise died

because her mother is mad.

And in her madness,
she believed she was protecting her.

Consider the two extremes of her journey,
if you may.

Consider this young lady,

full of ambitions and desires,
arriving in Paris,

and ask yourself this question,

how did she become that isolated,

invisible woman,
hiding in her partner's studio?

When she moved in with Luc Dumontet,

Laurence Coly had no financial resources,

she no longer had a bank account
nor social security cover.

She wasn't enrolled at the university.

She started to hear voices.

She experienced hallucinations,
terrifying dreams,

strange signs
that she struggled to decipher.

Other than a few phone calls
with her mother,

she had no more contact
with the outside world.

Her loneliness was so palpable

that she could almost touch it.

That was when she found out
that she was pregnant

and would give birth to her daughter.

In actual fact, Laurence Coly
didn't hide her pregnancy or the birth,

she hid herself.

She couldn't allow herself to be seen,

she was too afraid.

So, sorcery...

a young attorney, even a rookie,

would destroy a defense strategy
based on sorcery.

If I mention it now,
it is only to remind you

of the conclusions
of the psychiatric evaluation.

Sorcery is just the manifestation
of Laurence Coly's hallucinations.

This woman needs medical care

and in prison, she won't receive it.

Condemning her to a lengthy sentence

is, strictly speaking,
condemning her to madness.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,
I will conclude by mentioning something

that I found deeply touching.

Laurence Coly learned how to be a mother
on the internet.

She tried to do the right thing,

she tried to fight,

to keep going,

but she lost.

There was nobody to help her.

Nobody could understand.

And we still don't understand
Laurence Coly.

Some would have you believe
she's a liar, arrogant,

a manipulator, in short, a monster.

But this very morning,

Laurence told me about a dream,

in which Elise was with her in prison.

When I opened the door of her cell,

Elise ran to hide
under my attorney's gown.

Laurence knows that her daughter
will always be with her,

she is inside her.

What I'm telling you is not poetry,

it is science.

We know that during pregnancy,

the mother's cells and DNA
migrate to the fetus.

It is less known
that the exchange works both ways.

The child's cells also migrate
towards the mother's organs.

They lodge themselves in her body,

from her brain to her toes.

Even after birth,

even if the pregnancy
is not carried to term,

those cells live on,

sometimes throughout a woman's life.

A mother and her child
are thus intertwined

with one another,
in an inextricable manner.

It's inevitable, it's biology.

Do you know what scientists
call these cells?

Chimeric cells.

Like the Chimera, the mythical monster.

A hybrid creature
composed of different animal parts.

A lion's head, a goat's body,

a snake's tail.


members of the jury,
I have come to believe that

we women,

we are all chimeras.

We carry within us,
the traces of our mothers

and of our daughters,

who in turn, will carry ours.

It is a never-ending chain.

In a way, us women, we are all monsters.

But we are terribly human monsters.

Thank you.


So tired.

Subtitles: Katie Henfrey

Subtitling TITRAFILM