On Netflix, I just completed watching “The Serpent,” a gripping thriller based on true events.
This limited series chronicles the life and times of con man and serial killer Charles Sobhraj, focusing on the years 1975 to 1976, when hippy travel in Asia was at its peak. Earnest Herman Kippenberg, a Dutch diplomat in Bangkok, Thailand—his first international posting—and his small crew of helpers devote equal attention to his ambition.
Jenna Coleman’s stunning performance as MarieAndrée Leclerc, Sobhraj’s loving companion, is interwoven throughout the series. By witnessing their romance, we can learn the most significant things to avoid in a love partner.
In Quebec, Leclerc worked as a medical secretary. She went to India on vacation to keep her mind off a tumultuous romance with a married doctor, where she met Sobhraj in Kashmir. Sobhraj enticed her into an eventually toxic relationship with his charm, praises, and undivided attention.
Do you believe anything like this will never happen to you? You’d never fall in love with a con artist, a robber, or a serial killer, would you?
Leclerc probably never anticipated herself doing so. Con artists, on the other hand, prey on the unwary every day.
That is why this is a crucial series to watch.
We need to understand how con artists and narcissistic criminals are able to effortlessly entice victims to comply. You may never encounter a serial killer, but there are plenty of people who want to deceive you or drag you into an unhealthy relationship.
Let’s take a look at the three attributes you should never have in a spouse, which is one of the film’s primary lessons, at least for me.
- Fatal Attraction
Sobhraj (dubbed “Alain Gautier” during this time) utilized his charm to entice young travelers to the Kanut House condominium he lived with Leclerc (as “Monique”) in Bangkok. He complimented them, offered kind advise, offered assistance, and offered them free lodging in the flat he shared with Leclerc.
Leclerc helped set up the victims, but she was conflicted. In her diary, she described the internal tension she had between “MarieAndrée’s” desire to flee and what was expected of her as “Monique.”
Sobhraj was born to an Indian father and a Vietnamese mother. He thought he had been treated unfairly because of his mixed racial background, and he was motivated to disprove those who had discarded him during his early years in Paris. It was simpler to connect with young European and American travelers when I teamed up with a white woman. He and Leclerc went after people and couples they believed or learned had a lot of money.
Sobhraj drugged his new “buddy” with chemicals that made him or her progressively unwell once they arrived at his residence, with Leclerc’s help. He and his Indian accomplice, Ajay Chowdury, finally disabled the victim and transported them to a remote place where they were slaughtered. Sobhraj kept their belongings safe and utilized their passports to cash traveler’s checks and travel under false identities.
In India, Hong Kong, and Nepal, he carried out more murders with a similar method.
You can easily attract and influence others if you have charisma. In business and politics, charisma is regarded as a desirable trait since it motivates individuals to work together toward a common objective. Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, and Richard Branson are all considered charismatic by the majority of people.
When narcissists, con artists, and predators use charm to influence people for their own objectives, it has a nasty side.
Obviously, you want to stay away from partners who have the incorrect kind of charisma. But how do you know whether it’s true?
To begin, stay away from those who exhibit self-absorption and self-aggrandizement as key character traits. These characteristics are common in narcissists, but not in charismatic persons.
Suzanne Deges-White, Ph.D., a professor and licensed counselor, proposes the following four questions as a technique to distinguish a charismatic individual from a narcissistic one in the workplace in her Psychology Today article on charismatic corporate leaders. These questions can be translated and used in a variety of situations.
“Does this person provide the task or objective at hand a sense of purpose?”
“Does this person recognize my own abilities and encourage me to develop as a person or a team member?”
“Does this guy need to seek affirmation or does he provide it to others participating in the project?”
“Finally, when a leader encounters challenges or must rework a plan, does she lash out at everyone around her, blaming others for her failure, or does she recognize that there may be a better path to success and rally her team behind her to design a new course?”
When Sobhraj first requested Leclerc to use the name Monique and befriend a couple seated across from them on the beach, what went through her mind? When she found out he had poisoned them and stolen their money, what went through her mind?
She was taken aback at first. Sobhraj, on the other hand, justified his behavior. He said that they were wealthy children who did not require or deserve the money. He assured her that they would wake up fine the next morning. She didn’t act on her conscience since she had fallen in love.
To prevent getting persuaded into a poisonous relationship, you must pay attention to your inner doubts and hesitations. It’s time to go when you’re asked to do something that goes against your ideals.
Sobhraj would occasionally tell Leclerc the truth. He told her his genuine first name, Charles, for example. Leclerc didn’t seem to have any doubts about Sobhraj’s honesty until she learnt about his first wife, Juliette, much later in the story.
When she challenged Sobhraj about the omission, he justified it by informing her about the anguish Juliette had given him. Juliette, he explained, died many years ago and he couldn’t stand to contemplate or speak about it, prompting compassion from her.
Sobhraj and Leclerc come in Paris on the run from Asia, where he promised they would start a new life and have a family. When Leclerc sees their faces plastered on the front page of a Paris newspaper, a publicity campaign started by the dogged Kippenberg, she begins to have reservations about the future.
Leclerc has previously met Sobhraj’s mother. However, the encounter was tense, and an enraged Charles demanded that they leave. Leclerc made up a second meeting with Sobhraj’s mother, this time in secret, to discover more about him. Sobhraj’s mother mocks Leclerc’s folly.
His mother claims, “Charles constantly lies.”
Juliette is still alive and well, happily married to her new husband and the kid she had with Sobhraj.
Sobhraj lied to his victims on a regular basis. Why would Leclerc think he wouldn’t tell her the truth?
Sam Harris, a philosopher and neuroscientist, says:
“…all sorts of lying, including white falsehoods intended to save others’ feelings, are linked to lower-quality relationships.”
White lies, too. If you want to have a healthy relationship, don’t let small lies slide. You might find out one day that your partner has been lying to you as well.
Sobhraj had a romantic involvement with Suda, the proprietor of a gem store, in addition to his relationship with Leclerc. When Suda expressed his displeasure, Leclerc assured her that Suda meant nothing to him. He was just realistic in his approach. Suda was his go-to person for diamonds, which he needed for his con.
Leclerc accepted the circumstance despite her hatred for it.
Sobhraj later surveils his first wife, Juliette, in Paris. He waits for the right opportunity to reclaim her. Despite the promises of a new life and a family that Sobhraj has made to LaClerc, she is disposable in his eyes.
Sobhraj admits later in the film that he chose Leclerc because she looks like his first wife, Juliette.
Infidelity can be overcome by some couples. According to research published in Psychology Today, someone who has cheated in a past relationship is three times more likely to do so in a subsequent one.
If a potential spouse admits to past infidelities but rationalizes them, be wary. The chances are stacked against you.
Sobhraj, Leclerc, and Chowdury: What Happened to Them?
When Thai officials failed to apprehend Sobhraj, Kippenberg launched a massive public relations campaign. This sparked a global manhunt for the assailant.
Sobhraj and Leclerc escaped Paris and returned to India to start anew. They were captured by Indian officials in 1976 after attempting to poison a group of French postgraduate students.
Sobhraj was imprisoned in India for more than two decades for offenses committed there. He said that the guards adored him and wished him well. The statute of limitations for the killings he committed in Thailand had expired by the time he was released. In 1997, he returned to Paris, where he became a little celebrity.
He returned to Nepal in 2003 for an unexplained reason. Sobhraj was apprehended, convicted of murder, and condemned to life in prison thanks to evidence still in the hands of the unyielding Herman Kippenberg. He is still imprisoned in Nepal.
The role of Leclerc in the physical murders has never been established. She did, however, serve time in a prison cell in India for offenses done there. She was allowed to return to Quebec after being diagnosed with cancer in 1983, where she died at the age of 38.
Ajay Chowdury has been seen a few times, but no one knows for sure if it was him. Some believe Sobhraj assassinated Ajay before leaving Bangkok for Paris.
Despite the fact that the dialogue in The Serpent was fictitious, the script writers did extensive research and tried to stay as true to known facts as possible.
You’re unlikely to encounter a serial killer, let alone be drawn into a relationship with one. However, the types of actions they easily engage in can be fatal to any relationship.