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This film certainly made a huge impact on me. I think the reason this movie works so well is because it's slow and drawn out. It makes it feel like Christina is stuck in a never ending nightmare. I felt her distress throughout the picture, and this constant slow-burning tension is part of what makes the climax so terrifying. I initially wasn't sure what to make of the ending, because I thought the film went a bit overboard, but considering that the film feels like a never ending nightmare, I'll say that the ending is more than fitting. It feels like a microcosm of what makes the film preceding it so great. In addition, I typically don't watch films for their climaxes. A great ending can hit the spot, but I'm more interested in the cinematic foreplay beforehand than what it's leading me to.
Diabolique remains to this day an effective suspense thriller that keeps the audience guessing while maintaining a brilliant level of dark atmosphere.
Clever, classy thriller.
Michel Delassalle is the principal of a boarding school, and widely loathed. This loathing extends to his wife, Christina, and his mistress, Nicole Horner, both of whom work at the school. The two of them hatch a plan to murder Mr Delassalle while having the perfect alibi. They carry out the plan...but then his body disappears.
Clever, classy thriller from French director HG Clouzot. Intelligent, intriguing plot and well-drawn characters, the sort of story Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle would be proud of, and Alfred Hitchcock would love to have directed. Great twist towards the end.
Good direction by Clouzot: he sets the scene well and builds the tension in superb fashion, giving a claustrophobic feeling to proceedings.
Solid performances all round.
A classic thriller.
I’m frustrated. Diabolique was spoiled for me. But it wasn’t spoiled by someone telling me the end. It was spoiled because I’ve already seen the end. The problem is I don’t know where I saw this story before. It’s possible that it was copied by some TV detective show that I’ve watched, or maybe I caught a copycat film at some point and don’t remember it. I guess it doesn’t matter, the point is that once all the pieces fell into place in this plot, I knew exactly what was happening and why. There were a couple of moments where I doubted it, and thought there was possibility that things were not going to turn out as I expected, but there were no surprises left for me. That’s not to say that this story was told poorly. In fact, Diabolique is fascinating in the way the plot is laid out. They do a lot of things to keep you guessing if there’s something supernatural going on, something sinister, or something that can be easily explained. Everything is structured perfectly to keep the audience on the edge of their seats, waiting to discover what will happen next. A lot of the thrills in this movie are heightened by the performance of Véra Clouzot. Her portrayal of the terrified wife is nearly perfect, and she echoes the thoughts and emotions of the audience. The scene where she resigns herself to going through with the plan takes you through a whole range of emotions, and shows just how much she is carrying this film. Paul Meurisse does a noble job of being the jerk that we instantly hate. He is almost convincing to a fault, because I started to wonder how anyone would ever get involved with him, but that helps when we’re supposed to want him dead. Simone Signoret plays her part in the story with a certain attitude that works for the role. I wasn’t always sure if she was subtle enough, but the script was written well, so even her aggressive attitude fit. I also thought having the whole thing take place at a boys’ school was an inspired choice. They utilized the fact that little boys have a tendency to tell lies to great effect, and it made the last scene send us off with a little more to think about. My biggest problem with Diabolique, aside from somebody ruining it for me, was the way they utilized the retired policeman. At first it was inspired because I could see how they were manipulating the situation so that he would be seen as both a threat and a comforting presence. However, I’m not sure what happened in the last few scenes but the character was ruined for me. I’m not sure if it was the somewhat monotone performance from Charles Vanel, or the way the script was designed, but I could not get over how he handles the climax. Without spoiling anything I’ll just say, why didn’t he step in sooner or do something more? It made me physically angry that this was all he could muster. If they had shown where he was and given us reasons then I might have accepted it, but instead it felt like a contrivance of the script so he’d be away long enough for the twist to happen. It’s a poorly planned moment in a film that seems almost perfectly structured otherwise. Despite this irritation in the climax, and the fact that I knew what was going to happen anyways, I would recommend Diabolique as a strong film with a well-formulated plot and a tone that is thrilling throughout.
I just saw this last night for the first time. It was bone chilling with absolutely exceptional performances by everyone!
Though I predicted the ending fairly early on, that didn't take away from the suspense or impact of this truly frightening movie.
Effective suspense from Cluozot. Vivid B&W cinematography is practically another character in the film. Not a horror film but does share certain elements with that genre. The "chamber" cast is powerful and intentionally claustrophobic. A dark view of humanity and perverted motives.
What a fantastic, smart, macabre thriller this is. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot doesn't waste any time getting us emotionally involved, with a man (Paul Meurisse) abusing both his wife (Véra Clouzot) and his openly acknowledged mistress (Simone Signoret), and in making it apparent that the two are plotting to kill him. Meurisse and Clouzot run a boarding school full of rowdy little boys, and Signoret is another of the teachers there. Meurisse is mean to everybody, so we certainly don't sympathize with him. I'm not going to spoil this film by describing anything else. Trust me, it's best you don't know any more. Just sit back and watch it unfold, and you'll be happy you did. I will say that it's got a couple of incredibly eerie scenes that are well worthy of the often overused adjective 'classic'. This one is not just Hitchcock-esque, it's right up there with that director's best work.
Something that lacks in many contemporary thrillers is the confidence and sure-handedness in the way that the films are shot. Clouzot's "Diabolique" is a beautifully shot, confidently shot and paced thriller, and a perfect blueprint for the suspense story.
Watching this movie does not make my heart beat, but ponder at how much better had it been with Hitchcock at the helm or, had it been made much later, Brian De Palma. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot was a competent-enough filmmaker, but not that to rival Sir Alfred. He was a guy whose suspense rose and fall with the material, and not style or technique. Which is not to say Diabolique is not a good movie. The ending, which is shall not spoil for you, is among the most shocking and disgusting things ever put on film. Yet, the film does not drip with atmosphere, and the suspense depends on your investment in the material, not a visual story idea. And, years later, people might argue this is the true suspense masterpiece. But, I tell you, Psycho and Peeping Tom still reign.