Filming began on 27 August 1951 and was scheduled to run for nine weeks. Numerous problems plagued the production, however. The south of France had an unusually rainy season that year, causing vehicles to bog down, cranes to fall over and sets to be ruined. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot broke his ankle. Véra Clouzot fell ill. The production was 50 million francs over budget. By the end of November, only half the film was completed. With the days growing short from winter, production shut down for six months. The second half of the film was finally completed in the summer of 1952.
Henri-Georges Clouzot originally planned on shooting the film in Spain, but Yves Montand refused to work in Spain as long as fascist dictator Francisco Franco was in power. Filming took place instead in the south of France, near Saint-Gilles, in the Camargue. The village seen in the film was built from scratch.