Monday, November 12, 2012

Les Diabolique (1955)

“I may be reactionary, but this is absolutely astounding - the legal wife consoling the mistress!”

            The first time I had ever heard of Henri- Georges Clouzot I had rented L’Enfer (The Inferno). I rented L’Enfer because I saw Bérénice Bejo’s name on the cover and being a huge fan of hers I had to see it. L’Enfer has an interesting story I am not going to fully explain and I am sure you are asking yourself how is Bérénice Bejo attached to a Clouzot film if he was around in the 1950s and 1960s. I can only suggest looking up the film to understand. Anyway… Ever since I saw L’Enfer I have wanted to see another of Clouzot’s films. Les Diabolique was that other film. I did not know what Les Diabolique was about before I watched it and I am very happy I did not. Not knowing the plot made the film a great experience.
            Christina Delassalle (Vera Clouzot) and Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret) are teachers in a boy’s school in a small French village. The school is run by Christina’s husband Michel. Michel is not a nice man. He has been seeing Nicole, the whole school knows it and so does Christina. The two women cannot stand Michel he is an abusive controlling man not only to them but to the whole staff. Nicole wants to get rid of Michel and needs Christina’s help. Christina was a former nun she does not believe in killing people but Nicole is very persuasive.
            In the middle of the night wife and mistress sneak away from the school. They travel for hours to the town of Niort where Nicole runs an apartment for teachers. Nicole has Christina call Michel to tell him where she is and that she was a divorce from him. Christina makes the call but she begins to get cold feet. Nicole tells her that Michel would not hesitate to kill her Nicole’s plan is to drug the wine and Christina give the wine to Michel. In the mean time Nicole will be upstairs visiting her neighbors as part of her alibi.
            Michel arrives. At first Michel tries to charm Christina saying they can sell the school and go away somewhere. Then all of the sudden his mood changed he turns mean and threatening. Christina quickly changes her mind and hands her husband the wine with the sedative. Michel passes out on the bed. Nicole with Christina’s help take Michel to the bathtub and drown him.
            The next morning they wrap Michel’s body in a table cloth and place it in a trunk. They place the trunk in the truck they took from the school and drive the body back. The body is almost discovered when they stop for gas. Nicole and Christina arrive at the school late at night and dump the body into the dirty blackened pool water.
            Christina’s conscience begins to eat away at her. She cannot focus on teaching or any of her other activities of the day. She tells Nicole they have to alert someone to the body in the pool the body needs to be discovered so it is no longer there. Nicole comes up with a plan for the body to be discovered, she sees one of the boys has been kicked a ball into the pool. She throws keys to the boy to get a pole and throws them short so they fall in the pool. A boy jumps in the pool and all he comes up with is Michel’s lighter. Since the keys were not found Nicole has the grounds keeper empty the pool. Christina’s fears are brought to a new height when the pool is emptied and Michel’s body is not at the bottom.
            If I were to say anymore I would give too much of the film away and I do not want to do that.
            To me the most interesting fact about this film is that it is based off of a novel by Pierre Boileau. Alfred Hitchcock wanted to buy the rights to the story but Clouzot was faster. I like Hitchcock he is my favorite director but there is no way that the film would have been the same if he had made. Clouzot was able to create suspense through the cinematography and his direction. I cannot even explain how incredible this film. The cinematography is stunning it ranks with Night of the Hunter.  The story is not intense it is just suspenseful.
            Les Diabolique is one of the most perfect films to have been made in the history of cinema. Everything about it works together so well. Vera Clouzot was awesome her acting as this nervous woman with this enormous guilt on her conscience. Simone Signoret fit the aggressive driven mistress to a “T”. Les Diabolique is worth watching as many times as you can. From the moment the film starts you are hooked with its twist and turns, fantastic storytelling, and genius direction.