LA SALAMANDRE [feature film]


Early winter Paris. Unmarried French civil servant Catherine (44) is diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, it triggers a belated awareness that family life is no longer an option for her. Having not taken a holiday for over ten years Catherine makes an uncharacteristically impulsive decision to leave Paris for a three week holiday to visit her old friend Aude, who now lives in Recife (Brazil).

Aude and her husband Richard live in one of a string of post-modern glass and steel towers along the beautiful coastline. Behind this strip where the rich live, sprawl large favelas – shanty towns which house the poor people who service those on the coast. Approaching the City from the sea these communities are completely hidden. Catherine becomes increasingly disenchanted by the sterility of life in Aude’s privileged ghetto. A chance encounter with Gil (22) a charming young professional gigolo, persuades her to set out on an adventure to seek her own illicit pleasures.

Catherine presents Gil with gifts in return for sexual favours and they develop a mutually dependent relationship. She gradually slips away from her life as a tourist and spends more and more time in Gil’s world. Catherine finds herself physically awakening and feeling fully alive with access to a life she never imagined could be hers. Catherine befriends some street children on the beach. The kids sell drinks and snacks to holiday-makers for Conceição (60), a disabled Brazilian woman who runs a tiny kiosk in the beach. When Conceição is threatened with eviction Catherine pays for the lease on the kiosk.

Catherine’s holiday is coming to an end. She falls out with Aude and Richard who are very judgmental about her relationship with Gil and defiantly decides to stay in Brazil. She organizes a pension deal with her employers and sells everything she owns in France. Ignoring all warnings she goes to live with Gil and signs over to him a substantial part of her savings so he can set up a business.


Gil spends the money and becomes bored with Catherine. In an attempt to keep him she urges him to open her house to his friends. Catherine becomes increasingly intimidated and overwhelmed and the situation deteriorates further when Gil begins publicly humiliating her to entertain his visitors. A low point is reached when he persuades her to get involved in a robbery of sacred paintings from a local church.

Shell-shocked and disorientated, Catherine starts drinking heavily and dressing more and more provocatively. Carnival explodes on the streets as her life spins out of control. After several days of hedonistic excess she finds Gil on the streets with a young woman. Utterly betrayed and rejected she drunkenly begs him to kill her. Sickened by her demands and her neediness, Gil dowses Catherine with kerosene, tosses a match and makes his escape. Gil is arrested. Catherine begins a long process of convalescence and gradually accepts her severely scarred face. She spends her last savings on a lawyer to secure Gil’s release.

Catherine, now penniless, returns to the beach where she meets one of the street children. She learns that Conceição, has died, leaving her as the default owner of the kiosk the children depend on for their survival. Having no other option Catherine moves into the kiosk and runs it with the help of the children. Overtime, worn by the rhythm of this precarious life at the edge of the sea , she finally finds the reassurance of true mutual dependance in her day to day relationship with the kids.

Time has passed. One day Catherine sees an unexceptional, paunchy man contentedly playing with his wife and child. Recognising Gil, Catherine sends one of the kids over with a drink and returns to finish rubbing sunscreen into the faces of a couple of other kids.

More info at:



A intriga do romance escrito por Jean-Christophe Rufin é fundamentada numa história real.

Catherine, uma francesa de 44 anos, vai passar um mês no Recife, convidada por uma amiga. Após alguns dias, ela encontra na praia Gil (Gilberto), um belo e jovem que se torna seu amante. Aquilo que deveria ser, no início, apenas uma troca regulada e consentida, no contexto do turismo sexual, transforma- se numa relação de dependência afetiva por parte de Catherine, que acaba, depois das férias, por deixar a França, seu emprego, vender tudo e esvaziar sua conta bancária para viver com Gil.

Gil se revela rapidamente um aproveitador. Começa então para Catherine uma descida para os infernos, do ponto de vista físico e moral. O ponto culminante desta relação de dependência, onde a perda de poder rivaliza com humilhação, é o momento no decorrer do qual Gil derrama querosene em Catherine e toca fogo.

Sobrevivendo por milagre, mas desfigurada , Catherine permanece no Recife e perdoa seu criminoso. Ela se recolhe a uma barraca na beira da praia onde vende bebidas com ajuda de meninos de rua. Ela está decaída, mas reencontra uma espécie de verdade interior, a consciência de ter amado, que se torna uma força. A salamandra é um animal que pode viver no ou do fogo.

Mais informações:



Production company: NOIS Production Ltd.
Producers: Alex Carvalho/ Sven Schnell
Co Producer: Denis Carot (Elzevir Films/ France)
Production status: Development/ Script
Genre: Fiction (Drama)
Format: 35mm
Running time: 100 min
Shooting location: Recife (Brazil) and Paris (France)
Shooting Language: Portuguese/ French/ English
Intended release: Jun 2014
Estimated budget: 2.000.000 Euros
Writer (novel): Jean-Christophe Rufin
Script consultant: Sarah Golding