Tromperie (Deception): Desplechin’s tender Philip Roth adaptation

Picture of the movie Tromperie (Deception) © Why Not Productions


Philip Roth's book behind Tromperie (Deception) has been a firm favourite of Arnaud Desplechin's for years. The director spent a long time reflecting on the right way and time to adapt it. The resulting film stars Denis Podalydès, Léa Seydoux and Emmanuelle Devos, and is presented as part of Cannes Première.

In 1987, Philip is an American writer living in London surrounded by women: his wife, the women that exist only in his mind's eye, and especially his lover, who he invites into his workspace for conversations and passionate pleasure.

Tromperie (Deception) immerses us in the intimate space of the writer's office, a place where anything is possible. It is here that Philip Roth and his lover, played by Bruno Podalydès and Léa Seydoux, talk, touch, fight, and love. Line by line, they engage in a kind of reciprocal psychoanalysis, unpicking language and love, anti-Semitism and liberalism.

Philip Roth's book had an immense thirty-year-long impact on Arnaud Desplechin's life, with the filmmaker reading it in both French and English. He spent a long time debating whether or not to bring it to the screen, despite the author himself encouraging him to do so.

“I tried several times, and was never happy with the result. I considered adapting it for the stage for Denis Podalydès, and once again, I failed. Something happened over lockdown, and I became unblocked.”

The lightbulb moment came to Arnaud Desplechin during lockdown, when he found himself cloistered away like a writer in his garret. To draw the viewer in, he decided on a chapter-based format that ebbs and flows between different registers, and a setting brimming with film and theatre references. The overall effect in Tromperie (Deception) is a sense of a tender, erotic, deeply intimate conversation, shot through with dashes of humour.