Marguerite’s Theorem is a film about finding yourself when all seems lost

Marguerite's Theorem
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Marguerite’s Theorem sees PHD student Marguerite’s (Ella Rumpf) world turned upside down when a fellow student Lucas (Julien Frison, who is also in The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan and The Three Musketeers: Milady at this year’s festival; Happening, AFFFF 2022) finds a flaw in her thesis work.

Marguerite's Theorem

Accused of being too emotional when she abruptly walks out of the presentation at which the flaw is exposed, and for then writing a letter resigning from her thesis, Marguerite has to find a world outside the one of mathematics, which, until now, is the only one that she knows. It’s easy to pull the emotional card on her, after all she is a woman in what is very much a man’s world. We wonder whether anyone would dare accuse a male student of being too emotional in the same circumstances.


Laurence Werner (Jean-Pierre Darroussin, All your faces which is also at the festival this year, Rumba Therapy, AFFFF 2022, Promise at Dawn, AFFFF 2019, and the series Le bureau) is the PHD supervisor who tells Marguerite to simply find another PHD topic, and a new supervisor, when the flaw is revealed. The student who found the flaw is working on the same topic as her with Werner, which is just further salt in her wound. Marguerite feels like her world is crumbling around her.


Marguerite’s Theorem director Anna Novion, who also directed several episodes of The Bureau, explained she could relate to the way students at the big schools were separated from the world and only knew their own enclosed world of studies because:

“When I was about twenty years old, I got sick and I had to cloister myself for six months. Once I had recovered, I felt a gap with the people of my age, I did not share their carefree attitude anymore. I tried to find a way to express that disconnection with the world and with others. I thought about the “grandes écoles,” those higher education establishments where students are sometimes cut off from the rest of the world, solely focused on their studies, and pretty quickly the field of mathematics seemed the most appropriate.”


Having quit her PHD studies, Marguerite quickly finds herself living with a dancer, Noa (Sonia Bonny, who had an uncredited role in After Blue: Dirty Paradise), who she meets at a training session for a job doing surveys, and is exposed to a world she’s never known. She finds work in a sports store, and goes to bars and clubs with her flatmate.  Through her, Marguerite discovers the big world outside of maths, including making an amusing sexual advance on a stranger, discovering a love for mahjong, via their landlord/key cutter/illegal mahjong room organiser. She discovers a natural for the game because of her mathematical skills, which allows her to pay their rent.

However, the pull of maths and proving the theorem is still there, and screams at her ever louder when she discovers that Werner has achieved part of what she was setting out to do. It then becomes an incredible race against the clock for her to resolve the rest of the theorem before he does. Marguerite wants to present her own work at the conference in Lausanne, at which he will present his findings. We’re not sure whether she is motivated purely by upstaging Werner or whether the world outside of maths just isn’t enough for her. It seems to be mostly the former.


Ella Rumpf was awarded the Best Female Revelation at the César 2024 for her role in Marguerite’s Theorem and is very deserving of it. She portrayed the nerdy, obsessive student outstandingly. Darroussin is convincing as the uncompassionate PHD supervisor, unable to understand Marguerite’s disappointment when everything she has worked so hard on is broken apart. Julien Frisson portrays the bubbly, personable Lucas, who is quite a contrast to Marguerite’s more reserved character, well. He was nominated for Best Male Revelation at the César 2024 for this film.


Marguerite’s Theorem is a powerful film about a young woman finding her place in the world when all she’s ever known, and what she always thought she was destined for, is taken away.


Matilda Marseillaise watched a screener of Marguerite’s Theorem




We chat to Karine Mauris, Artistic Director of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024



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