The Beast Must Die (Que la bête meure)
Release Year: 1969
Director: Claude Chabrol
Writers: Claude Chabrol (screenplay & dialogue), Paul Gégauff (screenplay & dialogue), Nicholas Blake (based on his 1938 novel The Beast Must Die)
Starring: Michel Duchaussoy, Caroline Cellier, Jean Yanne, Anouk Ferjac, Marc Di Napoli, Louise Chevalier, Guy Marly, Lorraine Rainer, Dominique Zardi
Sunday Classic #264, week 28 2019
A man inserts himself in he life of a young woman he believes to be responsible for his son’s death.
A shocking traffic collision results in a death that overshadows the entirety of this story. A father loses his only son and his deeply felt grief and thirst for revenge drives him on ceaselessly. Duchaussoy (Milou en mai, 1990) plays the father in question, Charles, who begins to investigate the case after the police throw in the towel. He discovers, by chance, a connection between a young woman and his son’s death. He starts a romantic relationship with her and when he discovers that her brutish brother-in-law, Paul (Jean Yanne), was driving the car he decides to get deeper involved in the family to plot his revenge. Yanne (Indochine, 1992) plays the brute very well. He really is an unlikable fellow, cruel towards woman, too rough around the edges, too tough on his sensitive son. One cannot help but share in Charles’s dislike and root for him, even though he does act cruelly along the way himself, particularly towards Hélène, who falls in love him but is only a pawn in his revenge game. Set on a rugged coast and with an unpredictable plot, this is a very good thriller for those who like revenge dishes served cold. Highly recommended!
When Paul’s wife talks to Charles about the “Nouveau Roman”, she mentions several writers, including Paul Gégauff, who is credited in this movie for the screenplay and dialogue.
The film is based on a mystery novel by C. Day Lewis (father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis) writing under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake. It is one of several novels featuring the brilliant amateur sleuth Nigel Strangeways. However, this adaptation omits the character or a French equivalent completely.
The title of both novel and film is inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:19: “For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity.”
Picture Copyright: Rex Film