Up 19,726 this week

La Bête Humaine (1938)
"La bête humaine" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  19 February 1940 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.8/10 from 3,970 users  
Reviews: 37 user | 26 critic

In this classic adaptation of Emile Zola's novel, a tortured train engineer falls in love with a troubled married woman who has helped her husband commit a murder.



(novel), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 33 titles
created 31 Mar 2011
a list of 45 titles
created 04 Nov 2011
a list of 26 titles
created 28 Jan 2012
a list of 21 titles
created 14 Apr 2012
a list of 41 titles
created 2 months ago

Related Items

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: La Bête Humaine (1938)

La Bête Humaine (1938) on IMDb 7.8/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of La Bête Humaine.
1 nomination. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A man and a woman arrive in a cafe-hotel near the belgian frontier. The customers recognize the man from the police's description. His name is Amedee Lange, he murdered Batala in Paris. His... See full summary »

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: René Lefèvre, Florelle, Jules Berry
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Boudu, a tramp, jumps into the Seine. He is rescued by Mr Lestingois, a gentle and good bookseller, who gives shelter to him. Mrs Lestingois and the maid Anne-Marie (Mr Lestingois' mistress... See full summary »

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Michel Simon, Marcelle Hainia, Sévérine Lerczinska
French Cancan (1954)
Comedy | Musical | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

This comedy drama from Jean Renoir chronicles the revival of Paris' most notorious dance as it tells the story of a theater producer who turns a humble washerwoman into a star at the Moulin Rouge.

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Jean Gabin, Françoise Arnoul, María Félix
La Chienne (1931)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Cashier Maurice Legrand is married to Adele, a terror. By chance, he meets Lucienne, "Lulu", and makes her his mistress. He thinks he finally met love, but Lulu is nothing but a ... See full summary »

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Michel Simon, Georges Flamant, Janie Marèse
The River (1951)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Three adolescent girls growing up in Bengal, India, learn their lessons in life after falling for an older American soldier.

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Patricia Walters, Nora Swinburne, Esmond Knight
Toni (1935)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

In the 1920s, the Provence is a magnet for immigrants seeking work in the quarries or in the agriculture. Many mingle with locals and settle down permanently - like Toni, an Italian who has... See full summary »

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Charles Blavette, Celia Montalván, Jenny Hélia
Short | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

The family of a Parisian shop-owner spends a day in the country. The daughter falls in love to a man at the inn, where they spend the day.

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Sylvia Bataille, Jane Marken, Georges D'Arnoux
Comedy | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In Peru in the eighteenth century. Camilla, the star of a theater company, hesitates between three men. The Viceroy gives her his magnificent golden coach. A young Spanish officer suggests ... See full summary »

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Anna Magnani, Odoardo Spadaro, Nada Fiorelli
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Polish countess Elena falls in love to a Frensh radical party's candidate, a general, in pre world war I Paris, but another officer pines for her.

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Ingrid Bergman, Jean Marais, Mel Ferrer
Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A military deserter finds love and trouble (and a small dog) in a smoky French port city.

Director: Marcel Carné
Stars: Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan
Madame Bovary (1934)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Soon after the death of his first wife (whose dowry was inadequate), Charles Bovary, a country doctor in Normandy, marries Emma Rouault, who is well-endowed in every sense. In her new home,... See full summary »

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Max Dearly, Valentine Tessier, Pierre Renoir


Cast overview, first billed only:
Roubaud (as Ledoux Sociétaire de la Comédie Française)
Blanchette Brunoy ...
Gérard Landry ...
Le fils Dauvergne (as Gerard Landry)
Jenny Hélia ...
Philomène Sauvagnat (as Jenny Helia)
Colette Régis ...
Victoire Pecqueux (as Colette Regis)
Claire Gérard ...
Une voyageuse (as Claire Gerard)
Charlotte Clasis ...
Tante Phasie, la marraine de Lantier (as Germaine Clasis)
Jacques Berlioz ...
Grandmorin (as Berlioz)
Tony Corteggiani ...
Dabadie, le chef de section (as Cortegianni)
André Tavernier ...
Le juge d'instruction Denizet
Marcel Pérès ...
Un lampiste (as Perez)
Julien Carette ...
Pecqueux (as Carette)


Jacques Lantier is a train engineer who is prone to violent seizures, a condition he attributes to his forefathers' habit of excessive drinking. Roubaud is a train conductor on the same railroad that Lantier works on, married to the much younger Séverine. When Roubaud catches wind of his wife's affair with her godfather, the wealthy M. Grandmorin, he kills him during a train journey in a fit of jealousy. He makes sure that Séverine is also present, making her an accomplice to murder. Lantier, despite having witnessed them quite clearly in the train corridor, hides the fact during the investigation as he is attracted to Séverine. They both begin an affair, all the while Roubaud becomes increasingly withdrawn and starts to gamble. Séverine urges Lantier to kill her husband so that they would be free but she is unaware of Lantier's unfortunate condition. Written by Soumitra

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 February 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Human Beast  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Severine likes Malaga wine. Malaga is a sweet fortified wine from the Spanish city of Málaga and is made from Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes. See more »


Jacques Lantier: Pecqueux, I have to tell you something. Don't say a word and don't move. I killed her. That's right, I killed her. It's all over. I'll never see her again. It'll be the death of me, I know it. I couldn't bear to hold her anymore. I loved her, you know? I loved her little hands most of all. But there's one thing I don't get: why haven't they arrested me?
See more »


Version of Human Desire (1954) See more »


Le coeur de Ninon
Lyrics by Maurice Nouhaud (1900)
Music by E. Becucci (from waltz "Tesoro mio")
Sung by Marcel Veyran
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A Review Admittedly Bothered By Outside Influences
4 June 2010 | by (Cincinnati, OH, United States) – See all my reviews

The two most noted elements of Jean Renoir's classic "poetic realist" precursor to film noir are indeed the two elements I felt worked more as ends in themselves than seminal features of the story. They are the use of the train as "one of the film's main characters," as Renoir himself describes, and the characterization of Simone Simon's "femme fatale." There is genuinely palpable sensory vibrance in the extensive book-ending sequences of Jacques, played by Jean Gabin, and his best friend utterly obsessed by manning a steaming, chugging locomotive as it speeds down railroads, in and out of pitch black tunnels, and blackens their faces with the smoke it incessantly pumps into the sky. The flames of the furnace, the peripheral landscape speeding by. We have the feeling not of watching reality but of being occupied by it, a feeling prolonged as we experience, as if for the first time, the impact of abruptly emerging from a tunnel, ultimately screeching to a halt in the linear spectacle of a vast rail yard.

I suppose the speeding train is supposed to spark the fierce percussion that outlines the film. Other than these two extended set pieces, La Bete Humaine is a succession of mercurial sketches. It all flows from labor and of the limited time stolen from labor. It's a film of hurried transitions, where all appear to be perpetually passing through doors or climbing stairs or peering out windows. Volumes are spoken when the seductive wife of one of Jacques' colleagues is greeted into her lustful godfather's study while the door is warily closed behind her. A reckless Jacques flees the dance hall unobserved by the dancers, engrossed in their ecstasy. I was intrigued that we see the moments before and after all the murders and seductions but not they themselves. So many crisp exchanges of glances. The blackening impact of a wife's chance admission is found in the way she and her aggressively jealous husband can't bear to look each other in the eye.

Uncharacteristically of me, I found the remake much more affecting. Fritz Lang's Human Desire is, to me, the stronger film in terms of character. La Bete Humaine gets its themes across in its own restless way, but the result is lightweight in effect, while Lang's 1954 version is unyielding in depicting the spiritual isolation of the characters. He punctuates the dramatic action with threatening shots of the many railroad tracks interlacing and breaking away. He needs not brandish any certainty of intention for them to act as metaphor for the characters' paths tying themselves in knots. Lang remained in the shadows as a more effective way of showcasing a distinctive style. Strait-jacketing its insight and intensity, Human Desire is the more resonating parable for the shadows of human rationale and the distortion of the heart, and of desperate characters who lead disappointed lives.

Renoir cast Simone Simon as the adulterous wife at the center of Emile Zola's falling house of cards. He posits that the cute, innocent, kittenish women are the ones to watch out for because you are so enamored with their sweet and endearing nature that you would never suspect them of manipulating you. Well, that is very true. All of us, men and women alike, have encountered a female of this deceptive kind. She is a femme fatale in her own right. But Simon remains in the role of an exotic object, rather than meeting the male characters on their own level, the way Gloria Grahame does in Human Desire. Grahame was always seductive enough to make you crazy, but so audacious. There wasn't a demure bone in her ferociously sexy body, but that made her even more effectively cunning and guileful. She came at her male puppets headlong, and matched their presence as well as their wits.

Grahame and Glenn Ford remain sympathetic in their own respective ways, though one is in some sense a champion and the other is an adversary, just like Gabin and Simon here, but Grahame and Ford evoke a more lucid understanding of their desires, and in the face of the cruelty and ruthlessness in getting what they want, regardless of how far they unravel each other's darkest colors, despite the scorpion-like sidestepping around their flirtatious relationship. Accordingly, Human Desire is a boldly familiarizing study of the sense of right and wrong, achieving its shadowy effect by aiming for your heart and loins rather than only your cerebrum. The development of the drama in La Bete Humaine could be totaled in roughly ten or fifteen close-ups. Renoir just bulks up the lonesome hardships of his three central characters in a wholly animated world of locations and things. If one doesn't totally take in the materiality of the rail yards, rooming quarters and dance halls, the incessant coming and going on platforms and in corridors, the buzz and capricious commotion grinding amidst any personal dilemmas, we can barely be so involved in the uninvited and unconscionable devastation brought down on the three jinxed protagonists.

At any rate, in its own right, La Bete Humaine is a fine piece of stylized realism about disillusionment, done with an embellished aestheticism that, while it draws more attention to its representational elements, is still what gave Renoir's great films Grand Illusion and The River such beauty, humor and vitality. It is best to see this film unfettered by Fritz Lang's later adaptation, to take into account all of the fixations of its own time and culture without any outside influences, to see it as its own (human) beast.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Great film! Goldmund1710
How is the DVD? esedwards
Discuss La Bête Humaine (1938) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: