Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Kevin Feige:
My Movie Life

The Marvel supremo's pick of the flicks
4Music's Size Does Matter
Introducing your new favourite app
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
PG
Cast
Jean Gabin
Julien Carette
Simone Simon.
Directors
Jean Renoir.
Screenwriters
Jean Renoir
Emile Zola.
Running Time
99 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Ida
4 Star Empire Rating
Night Will Fall
4 Star Empire Rating
Grand Piano
3 Star Empire Rating
20,000 Days On Earth
4 Star Empire Rating
Manuscripts Don't Burn
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Two Days, One Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating

La Bete Humaine
Pre-film noir thriller


submit to reddit


Plot
After making the schoolboy error of falling in love with the femme-fatale (Severine), Jacques is then manipulated into killing his new lover's husband. But is she telling the truth? Will he go through with it?


Review

Jean Renoir's first major commercial success came about largely because Jean Gabin wanted to fulfil a childhood ambition to drive a train. Basing his screenplay on a cursory perusal of Emile Zola's 1869 novel, Renoir played down the Lantier family's history of alcoholism and concentrated instead on the intensity of the lovers' passion and the authenticity of the rail workers' environs. Thus, he not only captured the spirit of his source, but by shooting on location around Le Havre and Paris's Gare Saint-Lazare, he also achieved a grimy naturalist lyricism that heightened the picture's emotive potency.

Yet while Renoir was more interested in the authenticity of the setting than the mechanics of the plot, the film still contains several standout set-pieces, including the killing of Grandmorin (Jacques Berlioz) behind the train compartment blinds, Gabin and Simone's assignation in the rail sheds during a downpour, and Gabin's final acts of uncontrollable rage and bitter regret.

Leaving Gabin to essay his trademark flawed everyman, Renoir lavished attention on his female leads. But, while he reined in Simone Simon's feline sensuality to emphasise the lethal innocence of her femme fatality, he highlighted the locomotive's sexual symbolism and lit La Lison as though it was a lissom diva.

Fritz Lang was permitted no such latitude when he remade La Bête Humaine as Human Desire in 1954, by which time it had already exerted a considerable influence on Hollywood film noir. But, this was very much a feature that reflected its times. Along with another 1938 Gabin vehicle, Marcel Carné's Quai des Brumes, it exuded the pre-war pessimism of a nation that could see its impending fate in that of Gabin's doomed tragic heroes.

However, Renoir captured the anxiety of a society teetering on the brink with even more power and prescience in his next feature, La Règle du Jeu.


Verdict
After helping to kick-start film-noir in 40's America, La Bete Humaine has endured the years and is still as relevant and as watchable as ever. Matinee Idol Gabin's performance in particular is outstanding, playing a crazed killer with surprising ease.


Reviewed by David Parkinson

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Empire's Epic Interstellar Subscribers' Cover
The countdown begins to Christopher Nolan's sci-fi masterpiece

The Future Of Film: Your Favourite Movie WIll Be Crowdfunded
Click here to donate

The Empire Podcast #128: Interviews With Sir Roger Moore And George MacKay
Plus we say goodbye to Richard Kiel and the British Expendables are assembled...

Shut Up, World! Gary Busey Is Talking!
Strap yourselves in and meet a true Hollywood original.

Classic Feature: Gods Among Us - Paul Newman
A cat so cool he makes Steve McQueen look geeky.

The Future Of Film: There’ll Be An Oscar For Performance Capture
And the Academy Award goes to...

The Boxtrolls Interviews: The Cast And Crew On Laika's Latest
Sir Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning and more talk stop-motion

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)