Belle du Seigneur based on the acclaimed novel by Albert Cohen is a film of dazzling beauty that remains hollow at its core.

It’s the summer of 1936 in Geneva. Jewish communities are being persecuted all over Germany. The Head of Cabinet for the League of Nations is a handsome Jew named Solal Solal (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Solal is haunted, he says, by a beautiful Genevoise aristocrat, Ariane Deume (Natalia Vodianova), the wife of a man who works for him at the League. Solal seduces Ariane away easily and their love affair is the heart of the story.

In operatic style, Rhys-Meyers flies hot and cold, periodically striking the comic. Vodianova is vacant, whimpering and spineless. Their story, a tortured exploration of desire, power and obsession in a world of tremendous personal and cultural refinement is ultimately destructive.

Belle du Seigneur is sumptuous to watch. It titillates every sense with its vintage fashion, beautiful actors, glamorous interiors, shots of the Italian coastline, and of Geneva. The moody Gabriel Yared soundtrack, “a fragile waltz surrounded by sorrowful string adagios” intensifies the sensuality. Despite all this, the film remains emotionally paltry, but the equestrian style is sharply elegant.