Pauline is a 66 year-old "little girl"; she cannot read, write, or even speak correctly. She lives in a Flemish village somewhere between Brussels and the Belgian coast.
Pauline's older sister Martha has been taking care of her ever since their parents passed away.
Then Martha suddenly dies.
Martha left a will stipulating that all her worldly possessions and the proceeds of the sale of her house would go to her surviving sisters on condition that one of them personally takes care of Pauline.
Both sisters are interested in the inheritance but neither one — not Paulette who has a little shop in the village, nor Cécile who lives in Brussels — wants to take care of Pauline ...
Pauline idolizes Paulette. But Paulette tries with all her might to remain insensitive to this excessive admiration. Day in and day out she shoos away her simple-minded sister who keeps coming to visit her at the shop.
Will Pauline finally get her way with Paulette?

Director's Statement

The story of Pauline and Paulette is based on a childhood memory of mine: two sisters who owned a shop together. During post-production on LEONIE (in 1996), I started writing a script taking this as the starting off point,
I looked for a reason for them to live together. At the beginning of the film, they don't live together yet. I got the idea of making Pauline a mentally retarded person living with another sister, Martha. When Martha dies, is Pauline going to move in with Paulette in the village, or will she go to Brussels to live with a third sister, Cécile?
As I did for LEONIE, I visited various institutions for the mentally handicapped people.
All were willing to work with us. I discussed the image of the mentally handicapped in recent films — the film is fiction, but it has to be credible as well. I also did some volunteer work in these institutions in order to observe the reactions of these people close up.
These elements inspired several scenes in the film and allowed me to better understand how Pauline should behave.
To portray Pauline, Dora van der Groen met Denise C, a 64 year-old mentally handicapped woman. Just as it was in LEONIE, Pauline's dementia is a metaphor for communication problems among the characters.
As tragic-realistic as PAULINE & PAULETTE is, I tried to incorporate a humorous aspect into the tone. There were scenes in LEONIE that evoked strong reactions from the audience; the same will be true (I hope) of PAULINE & PAULETTE.

When you approach mentally handicapped people, you learn an enormous amount; your vision of life is changed. These people surprise us in subtle little ways. Because of this, I am convinced the film will be very affecting.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Lieven Debrawer

Written by: Lieven Debrawer, Jacques Boon

Produced by: Dominique Janne

Cinematography: Michel Van Laer

Editing: Philippe Ravoet

Costume Design: Erna Siebens

Original Score: Frédéric Devreese

Cast: Dora van der Groen (Pauline), Ann Petersen (Paulette), Rosemarie Bergmans (Cécile), Idwig Stephane (Albert)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2001