L’Enfer (Claude Chabrol, 1994)

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Mr Sausage
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L’Enfer (Claude Chabrol, 1994)

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Jun 10, 2019 6:19 am


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Re: L’Enfer (Claude Chabrol, 1994)

#2 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:48 pm

There are two ways I’ve been able to view this film so far. The first: Chabrol goes deeper than ever before tackling marital jealousy. Eyes Wide Shut this is not, nor Modern Romance. Well no one expected a comedy, but the point of comparison is that unlike other great films about jealousy, Chabrol chooses not to lean his focus favorably toward the male jealous subject. Here he devotes equal attention to both the jealous husband Paul and the object of these projected emotions, his wife Nelly. We don’t relate with Paul, as we do with Tom Cruise or Albert Brooks (even if from a relatively objective distance in those films!); we feel sympathy for him, as we do his wife. But this is more than just a psychological study of socio-emotional-behavioral processes particularly dissecting the male self-emasculation in a relationship. Ebert made an interesting argument in his review regarding Nelly’s part (a phenomenal Emmanuelle Béart), that supports his similar argument in his analysis of the dynamic in Le Boucher. I don’t buy it this time, but I don’t have to, because Chabrol keeps us at enough of a distance to get a peripheral view of possible angles without any being objectively correct, in part because we get so much exposure to Nelly. Even through this perspective, the film is one of the more mysterious and challenging works in Chabrol’s filmography; perhaps not as much as Le Cri du hibou or Le Boucher, but worthy of standing alongside them. It breaks down the marital connectivity to its tissue and exposes it for the fragile unknown void that truly exists between two people when the weight of the individual’s psychology rears its head as the only reliable ‘truth.’

The second reading builds on the initial one: What is particularly striking about this film for me, which I haven’t read an analysis of elsewhere, is the degree to which “jealousy” is made far more complex than in other films, for it’s more than jealousy but preoccupied and intrusive thoughts most often associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Most people think of the common presentation of OCD as compulsive rituals based on illogical superstitions, rooted in anxiety. However, many people carry this diagnosis with mostly, and at times solely, mental manifestations of obsessions and compulsions via intrusive unpleasant thoughts. Everything about the way Chabrol shoots Paul’s perspective in this film can be viewed as visual projection of these preoccupations combined with the accompanying uncontrollable emotions, and realistic behaviors for one incapable of shaking these symptoms (one only needs to have symptoms take up one hour of their day to meet criteria- which is actually a lot and why most people who think they have OCD actually do not, but have “obsessive compulsive features” attached to another diagnosis - i.e. anxiety; however Paul definitely seems to meet criteria, and then some). If we take Paul’s hallucinations at face value, this could be a more severe psychotic disorder such as paranoid schizophrenia, and this becomes an even less complex or interesting film, but it really doesn’t matter if we pigeonhole Paul into a category, as Chabrol is certainly never trying to label his subjects or summarize them by an assigned diagnosis (and I highly doubt he had read up on OCD or intended to portray this in the process of making this film). What matters is that Paul is not simply a “jealous” husband, in this state due to ‘normal male psychology.’ This is a special case that sees the psyche as complex, which, sadly, rarely gets attention in movies. As a film about a jealous male and the consequential social disconnect, it’s very good. As a film about the powerlessness and destruction untreated mental health issues can cause in the individual and family system, this film is excellent, and one of Chabrol’s very best.

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Re: L’Enfer (Claude Chabrol, 1994)

#3 Post by knives » Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:33 pm

The idea of Chabrol doing Clouzot remains interesting and I'd love to get more information on the process of adaptation for this, but ultimately this doesn't really rise above okay. There are many high moments here such as when Paul runs to the lake, but most of the central jealousy is delivered in a relaxed fashion which doesn't push the movie beyond its initial emotional state. The other characters are total enigmas seen through his eyes which makes the film far too dependent on a character who is simply not interesting. Chabrol's tackled similar territory before, particularly with the great La rupture, and succeeded thanks to either compelling secondary character and/ or a lead who's truly tragic in a way that engages beyond the initial emotion.

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Re: L’Enfer (Claude Chabrol, 1994)

#4 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:30 am

I often get the feeling watching Chabrol movies that while he is tinkering away at the technical challenges, the actors are left on their own, they're directing themselves, which can result in inconsistency (and some poor performances) puzzling to the viewer. For Beart's character in the context of this movie however the inconsistencies work, her elusiveness in the twisted mind of her jealous husband is the point. Beart is superb in all her guises.

On the literal level one might wonder why no one suggests that Paul should see a doctor. When they finally do see one, following a night in which a terrified Nelly has been "nearly crippled" by her abusive husband who sits in a chair next to her clearly deranged and dangerous, the doctor blithely tells them to go back home together and he will pick them up in the morning. The preposterous instructions (and Nelly's compliance) diminishes the mysterious finale.
Last edited by Mr Sheldrake on Sat Jun 15, 2019 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: L’Enfer (Claude Chabrol, 1994)

#5 Post by nitin » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:17 am

That last part is the only thing that really felt like it was a script from the 50s and I agree that it diminishes the otherwise strong finale somewhat.

One other thing I thought was interesting was how quickly the film rushes through the first few years of romance and marriage and then really drags out the period of jealousy even though it is clearly over a shorter period of time.

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Re: L’Enfer (Claude Chabrol, 1994)

#6 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:07 pm

knives wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:33 pm
The idea of Chabrol doing Clouzot remains interesting and I'd love to get more information on the process of adaptation for this, but ultimately this doesn't really rise above okay.
Chabrol was helped early in his career by Clouzot and they became friends and bridge partners. Clouzot's widow Ines gave Marin Karmitz versions of the script for Chabrol to look at which he found in turn dull and distasteful, overwhelming forced into a schematic op-art experiment due to Clouzot's obsession with the op-art guru Vasarely that he was striving to find a cinematic variant for. However one version, the first draft, he felt had the seeds of an interesting enquiry into the seeds of jealousy This was the one he adapted without trying to "betray" Clouzot but opted for the insistence that for jealousy to thrive the subject had to be already mad rather than jealousy engendering madness.

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