When Belle van Zuylen (1740-1805) has just written her first novel, she meets the much younger Benjamin Constant in Paris. That is the start of a passionate friendship over many years. Ultimately, Benjamin’s unfaithfulness and opportunism is too much for Belle.
In 1787 Belle van Zuylen (Will van Kralingen) settles in Paris to escape the oppressive Swiss surroundings of her husband De Charrière (Kees Hulst). There she meets the much younger Benjamin Constant (Laus Steenbeeke). An intense friendship develops between them which will eventually symbolise the development of the French Revolution. However their contact in Paris is abruptly interrupted when Benjamin Constant leaves for England, fleeing creditors and his father. Belle returns disappointed to Switzerland.
Months later Benjamin Constant suddenly turns up on her doorstep. He spends the winter in the De Charrières household to recover from an illness. Belle is very glad to have him around. But Benjamin’s father does everything he can to shorten his stay. In the end, Benjamin leaves to take up a position as chamberlain at the court of Brunswick. The friendship between Belle and Benjamin has to be pursued by letter.
Difficult times dawn when Belle’s maid Henriëtte (Patty Pontier) turns out to be pregnant and won’t say who the father is. Belle defends her and manages to prevent Henriëtte from being banished.
Despite all kind of plans to settle nearby for good, Benjamin consistently fails to come. Belle becomes increasingly depressed.
One fine winter evening he is suddenly standing in front of her, as if in a dream. He has become more mature. Their friendship deepens, but not for long. It is as if Benjamin recoils in the face of the consequences and runs away from her.
They continue to exchange letters, but their differences of opinion deepen.
Their friendship comes to an end when Benjamin becomes acquainted with Germaine de Staël (Carla Hardy). He elects for a new life, a political career in Paris, with Germaine.
Belle stays on in Switzerland, but she continues to write.
Will van Kralingen (Belle Van Zuylen)
Laus Steenbeeke (Benjamin Constant)
Kees Hulst (Monsieur De Charrière)
Patty Pontier (Henriëtte)
Carla Hardy (Germaine De Stael)
Marieke van Leeuwen (Charlotte)
Joke van Leeuwen (Louise)
script & direction: Digna Sinke
camera: Goert Giltaij
gaffer: Erwin Roodhart
sound: Jac Vleeshouwers
art director: Vincent de Pater
costume designer: Jany Temime
make- up: Winnie Gallis
editing: Menno Boerema
sound editing: Jan Wouter van Reijen
re-recording mix: Jan van Sandwijk
production manager: Ineke van Gulik
producer: René Scholten
produced by Studio Nieuwe Gronden in co-production with De Nieuwe Unie (Rolf Orthel) and NOS televisie
this film is financially supported by:
Produktiefonds voor Nederlandse Films
Stimuleringsfonds Nederlandse Culturele Omroepproducties
Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival 1994: Main Prize