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Jean Cocteau's adaptation of his controversial play Les Parents terribles for the screen stands out in his oeuvre as an attempt to reconcile theatre and cinema. It also presented a challenge in preparing a soundscape for a work that did not have any music in its original form. Parents occupies a unique, Janus-like position in the history of French film music, as forward-looking in its anticipation of New Wave treatment of music as material as it is representative of the turn to adapting stage plays for the screen that started in the 1930s. Drawing on production sketchbooks and testimonies, this article considers the development of Cocteau's working method and his collaboration with Georges Auric, fuelled by the director's desire to take control of sonic matters. The resulting employment of a monothematic score was not only a new solution to the famous problem of filmed theatre, 'detheatricalizing' Parents sonically and visually, it contributed considerably to the development of Cocteau's status as film auteur–one whose role now extended to adapting musical material. Furthermore, the effect of this compositional technique in Parents suggests that it can be fruitfully situated in relation to recent work in film music studies on issues of anempathetic scoring practices.