Saturday, 23 October 2010



This was of moderate interest to me as it's the Claude Chabrol version of the film Henri-Georges Clouzot was attempting to make thirty years previously but which was ultimately abandoned (the whole story was told in the fascinating Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno). Having seen some of the surviving footage in that documentary, I was slightly intrigued to see whether a good film could have been made from the apparently solid source material.

And L'Enfer (Hell) certainly starts out rather well: it's a nicely told tale of a married couple (Emmanuelle Beart and Francois Cluzet) running a lakeside hotel, but the husband beings to suspect his wife might be having an affair with the mechanic on the other side of town. Although the evidence is entirely circumstantial and her behaviour can all be explained away, he can't let go of the idea and comes to believe that she's at it not just with the mechanic but, as the days go by, with absolutely everybody including all the guests at their hotel. Every glance, every word, every second unaccounted for: it's all mounting proof of her infinite infidelities.

Gradually, however, as he gets more and more jealous, suffering from increasingly irrational suspicions and ultimately resorting to violence, the film does lose its way. I suspect that the way it eventually plays out might have worked better back in 1964, but nearly thirty years (L'Enfer was made in 1993) on you don't expect a wife as badly treated as Beart to somewhat meekly submit; rather, you expect her to either fight back or walk out. A further seventeen years, watching the movie well into the 21st Century, it actually feels wrong and I really didn't like the ending at all. Nonetheless, it's still an interesting film, especially if you know the background to its ill-fated origins.


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