Based upon a true story, an impoverished young girl, Violette Noziere (Isabelle Huppert), lives in a suffocating little flat in Paris with her parents. She habitually sneaks out of her home to engage in sexually promiscuous behavior. She has loving parents. Her father and mother are sweet, affectionate, simple people. Her father, Baptiste, played by Jean Carmet is a retired railroad engineer. His greatest joy is simply playing cards with his wife, Germaine(played by Stephane Audran), with Violette in attendance.
Unknown to her parents, at the ripe age of 18, Violette keeps a room in another part of Paris for liaisons with young men as a prostitute. Violette gets syphilis from an unknown client. She discovers from a medical student that the disease can be inherited and is able to convince her parents that it has happened in her case. Her parents never consult the doctor who made the diagnosis. This would be incredible except that this movie is based upon a true story and they obviously prefer their daughter's version of the truth more than finding out for themselves.
Violette eventually falls desperately in love with a young man she meets in a bar named Jean Dabin (Jean-Francois Garreaud). Her "love" for this handsome yet unambitious young man finally unleashes the psychopathy which she has manifested with smaller bad acts earlier in the movie. It leads her to use her earnings as a prostitute to buy him suits, watches, and has her aspire to marry him. She even steals her father's ring to give it to him as a present. Dabin takes all of the bounty Violette provides him but remains totally emotionally uninvolved, leaving for the countryside.
While Dabin is gone Violette resolves that the only way to have him is to kill her parents and steal their savings. Violette uses packets of medicine supposedly prescribed by the doctor to treat the family's non-existent disease. In fact she is poisoning the parents. She engages in a grisly sociopathic feast after her attempted killing of her parents. Throughout the movie director Claude Chabrol uses flashbacks to create a purposeful confusion as to what is true and what is false in Violette's later version of events when she is arrested and tried for the murder of her father and the attempted murder of her mother. The murder set off a true hysteria in France as the country tried to cope with a case of unfeeling and unprecedented parricide in 1933.
Huppert was only twenty-five when she made this movie. Director Claude Chabrol dressed her in black dress, hat and coat in the best tradition of the femme fatale. But it did not take a lot of creative genius to do it. Her dress duplicates the dress of the real Violette you will find in the news of that day. This was the first of a number of films upon which Chabrol and Huppert collaborated. You can see the brilliance of one of France's greatest actresses in the making in this early film. It is chilling because it is real. A true Edgar Allen Poe horror story you will enjoy.