This article is about the film. For presentation of the game early childhood used as a rhetorical ploy, see appeal to ridicule. This article’s plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. 1996 French film set in the 18th century at the decadent court of Versailles, where social status can rise and fall based on one’s ability to mete out witty insults and avoid ridicule oneself.
The story examines the social injustices of late 18th-century France, in showing the corruption and callousness of the aristocrats. The film then shifts to the Dombes, a boggy region north of Lyon. He is one of the few aristocrats who care about the plight of the peasants. Just before reaching Versailles, Ponceludon is robbed and beaten. Monsieur de Blayac, who was to have been Ponceludon’s sponsor at court.
In one notable example, a bumbling noble of the court, Monsieur de Guéret, falls asleep during a roll call to partake in court with the King Louis XVI. L’abbé de Vilecourt, seeing that the noble is asleep, removes the noble’s shoe, throwing it in a fireplace, and mimics a call for him. The noble wakes upon hearing his name, but finding out he has only a single shoe, is terribly distraught. She has agreed to marry Monsieur de Montaliéri, a rich, old aristocrat whose wife is dying.
Her motivation is twofold: to support her science experiments and to help pay off her father’s debts. Ponceludon begins to help her with her experiments. Montaliéri observes their growing attraction to each other. One day, a deaf-mute named Paul runs through the woods wearing Mathilde’s diving suit and frightens Madame de Blayac. Blayac makes Bellegarde send him away. Bellegarde sends the boy to the Abbé de l’Épée, a pioneering educator of the deaf.
Mathilde visits Madame de Blayac and unsuccessfully pleads for Paul. Madame de Blayac senses a rival for Ponceludon. Vilecourt finally obtains an audience with the King, but blunders by accidentally blaspheming against God in an attempt to be witty, and Blayac turns her attention back to Ponceludon, convincing him to return to Versailles. She maliciously has Bellegarde attend her in his capacity as physician when Ponceludon is still with her, ensuring that Mathilde learns of their relationship. During a presentation at court of the Abbé de l’Épée’s work with deaf people and development of sign language, the nobles ridicule the deaf mercilessly. However, some nobles change their minds when the deaf demonstrate their own form of wit: sign language puns.