Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Fig 1 - Les Diaboliques Poster
Les Diaboliques, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, is a psychological thriller set in a French boarding school run by an obscenely abusive headmaster named Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse). Michel is married to one of the school's teachers, a wealthy Christian woman named Christina (Véra Clouzot), who timidly accepts Michel's open bouts of adultery with another teacher named Nicole (Simone Signoret). Having been pushed to the breaking point of Michel's abuse, Christina and Nicole plot to lure him to a discrete location far from the school in order to murder him. Although their plan seems to go off without a hitch, when the corpse mysteriously disappears from it's hiding place the culprits grow evermore paranoid and begin to suspect that they were not so successful after all...

The film is based on the novel 'Celle qui n'était plus' (She Who Was No More) written by Pierre Bioleau and Thomas Narcejac, which Clouzot famously beat director Alfred Hitchcock to own the rights for. Interestingly enough, the film does bear several resemblances to Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), which focuses on the murder of a central character and features a dramatic twist towards the climax. I had only heard of the film in passing, so had little expectation of what I was in for. I found myself surprisingly gripped by the mystery of the missing corpse and, though it had occurred to me earlier in the film, was hooked by the intensity of the ending nonetheless.

Fig 2 - Les Diaboliques - Christina, Michel and Nicole
The lead actresses were particularly impressive, with Véra Clouzot's performance stealing the show for me. Her delivery made it clear and succinct that she was conflicted over even planning to murder her husband, though utterly understandable once Michel's sickening behaviour had been established. Paul Meurisse had also ought to be credited for his portrayal of the despicable Michel, who held a nuanced yet intimidating presence, even during scenes in which he was nowhere to be found.

If anything, my only gripe with the movie was that it felt a tad over-long. As most novel adaptations go, Les Diaboliques is an incredibly short one. However, the pace felt a little slow for my liking towards the middle, which may have been emphasised by the film's sincere lack of music following the opening credits. I wouldn't let this take away from my experience, though. I found the film to be a perfectly solid tale of mystery and morality, and one that will leave the viewer questioning who the real victim was after all.


Fig. 1 Les Diaboliques Poster (1955) From: Les Diaboliques - Directed by: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Fig. 2 Les Diaboliques Screenshot (1955) From: Les Diaboliques - Directed by: Henri-Georges Clouzot

No comments:

Post a Comment