On Sunday night (1st March 2015), watched the 1962 French New Wave flick Le Combat dans L’île. One of the best among, film française (French Films).

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Romy Schneider in a scene from Le Combat dans L'île (1962)

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Romy Schneider in a scene from Le Combat dans L’île (1962)

This masterpiece of the Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave), directed by Alain Cavalier, deals with a husband and a wife, a political assassination attempt, tested friendships and infidelity. It’s a brilliant movie starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Romy Schneider, as husband and wife; and Henri Serre, as a close friend, kind confidant and ultimate lover.

Jean-Louis Trintignant, plays a foolish man, conned into a rebellious group, and, though not necessarily an abusive husband, definitely a bully of a husband, and a very possessive and untrusting husband, with a major inferiority complex. Yet he isn’t as sceptical, in fact happens to be pretty gullible, when it comes to outside negative influences, that doesn’t concern his marriage. He resides in Paris, France, with his beautiful wife.

One day Clément (Jean-Louis Trintignant), gets involved in a political assassination attempt, which happens to be the brainchild of Serge (Pierre Asso), his superior, among the underground rebels; unaware to Clément’s wife, Anna (Romy Schneider). It is Clément who pulls the trigger, under the guidance of Serge, during attempt to kill a famous French politician. Soon Clément is forced to abscond, along with Anna, to his childhood friend, Paul’s (Henri Serre) home, a safe haven, in the countryside. Here Clément learns, that it’s actually Serge who betrayed him. Thus he vows to take his revenge, for his own folly, in trusting Serge with his life. Paul, being a modern day democrat, and an advocate of non-violence, is horrified by Clément’s involvement in the failed assassination attempt, and throws him out of his house. Yet for Clément, with nothing but vengeance in his mind, takes no heed to Paul’s contempt towards him, and leaves for South America, in search of Serge, leaving Anna behind.

Anna is devastated, and falls into a grave depression, but Paul, along with the help of Cécile (Diana Lepvrier), Paul’s housemaid, pulls her out of it. Soon news of Clément being a wanted man, for the murder of Serge, reaches France. With no news from Clément, Paul and Anna fall into each others arms. But soon Clément returns, and now devoured by jealousy, after he learned of his wife’s infidelity, keeps challenging Paul to a dual. Sensible Paul keeps refusing. But the immature Clément wouldn’t let the couple, that is now expecting a child together, be, and wouldn’t stop harassing them until Paul agrees to a fair fight. It’s a matter of honour for, the archaic mentality of the male chauvinistic, Clément. While Paul and Anna, are more open minded, practical, and nice couple, who seem perfect for each other. But thanks to the brashness, of Clément, the story is headed for an, uncalled for, shootout, with tragic consequences.

BEHIND THE SCENES: The cast of Le Combat dans L'île, having fun on the sets.

BEHIND THE SCENES: The cast of Le Combat dans L’île, having fun on the sets.

Character Analysis  
Clément is a failure in life, which gives rise to his unkind ways, violent mentality, inferiority complex and insecurity. He is an extremist fool. He beats his wife, yet he truly loves her. Loves her to the brink of suffocation. His physical appearance adds to his characterization. He is a good looking bloke, yet not well rewarded in height, and not as handsome as his close friend Paul. It’s an interesting contrast between the two friends. Paul is tall, handsome, kind, sensible and practical. A perfect gentleman. While Clément is brash, unsympathetic, immature, moody, rough and unsophisticated in mannerism. Anna is a former actress, who’s left the stage, after getting married. She seems to have an existentialist personality. Clément is very possessive of her, he feels he own her. Anna rebels against his domineering behaviour, and is constantly horrified of his violent tendencies, yet she almost always ultimately gives in, letting him have his way. She revolts against his brutishness, but yet, at the same time, is submissive. She loves and fears him and seems tired of fighting, yet she doesn’t accept his negative attitude towards life. In fact, once she tells him, that he is ‘‘killing her’’. She means metaphorically, as well as his physical bullying towards her. The way he strangles her neck with lust, as he kisses her. He treats her as his property, property he loves to death. But what’s more ironic here is, as she tells him, he’s ‘‘killing her’’, metaphorically, he is actually ready to kill the traitor, Serge, the man who betrayed him. Three really intriguing character sketches here. Anna’s love for Clément, shows her love for a passionate romance, at the edge of being deadly. Yet, when she finally falls for Paul, it’s more of a settle-down kind of love affair. Relaxed, along with a kinder and gentler man, a complete contrast to her ruthless, obsessive, husband. With Paul she’s ready to start a family, and live happily. That is until, Clément comes back and gets ready to ruin her stress free life.

Symbolism of the Landscape: The Secluded Isle  
The countryside where Paul lives is beautiful. Especially Paul’s little Isle, with his Tudor style house atop; with the dark timber frameworks, and white plaster; along with a river flowing below. It’s picture perfect. A happy private and scenic retreat, away from habitation. Perfect for a couple in love, a relaxed lifestyle, and great for bringing up a family. It’s such a romantically  beautiful landscape. A place which landscape artists would love to paint, poets would love to write about, and writers would love to use to muse about their next venture. Yet, the place can also be symbolic, of isolation, loneliness and insecurity. Ultimately this beautiful location is where all the drama unfolds. The climax. The final combat in the isle, takes place, as the title suggests. This is where the fire and ice (as the English title of the movie, Fire and Ice, suggests) face each other. While the fire tries to melt the ice, the ice tries to extinguish the fire. One through foolish provocation, the other forced against his will.

A marvellous movie by Alain Cavalier, with a superb cast. Romy Schneider happens to be one of my favourite actresses, from European cinema. Schneider is of Austrian birth, but she’s acted in French, Italian, German and English language movies. Le Combat dans L’île happens to be her first venture into the Nouvelle Vague. French actor, Henri Serre, happens to be the star, of my all time favourite French flick, director François Truffaut’s New Wave classic, Jules et Jim (1962), which happens to be part my all time favourite, Top-10 Films (see my list of critiques titled Why I love …. from November/December 2012 on IMDB).

Le Combat dans L’île, is a blend of Art Cinema meets a thriller, combined with a love story, a tragedy, and more than a pinch of the element of noir. The film itself, like the character of Anna, embodies an existentialist undercurrent. A beautiful directorial debut feature by Alain Cavalier

Le Combat dans L’île (1962). Pure Excellence!!!!! 10/10!!!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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