Louis Malle produced the film as a criticism of Jean-Luc Godard and other then-right wing nouvelle vague directors and their support for the French occupation of Algeria and for the OAS and their campaign of terrorism and assassination in mainland France. See more »
Le Combat dans l'île is a political film about a right-wing reactionary, the racist Clément played by Jean-Louis Trintignant; his childhood friend Paul (Henri Serre), left-wing printer; and love interest Anne (Romy Schneider).
Clément and Anne are in a rut, she an ex-actress, now a kept woman, he a son of a wealthy industrialist, very serious and eager to kill lefty politicians. She likes to pass herself around, wedding ring or no, he treats her as if she were personal property, they are deserving of one another.
Anne's slatternly behaviour appears to be foreplay for unhealthy sex as Clément physically abuses her and she submits. Trintignant is not really up to the part, not in the mindset of the character, but Schneider really wows. You can almost sense cinematographer Lhomme's enthusiasm as he follows her around as she pelts the camera with daisies, under her spell. That is the meat of the movie, images of Romy Schneider, for more after this fashion see her in L'enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot, a documentary of footage from an extremely ambitious Clouzot production that didn't get off the ground assembled recently by Serge Bromberg. L'enfer is the concept of fascination with Romy Schneider taken to ruinous extremes.
These early scenes are accompanied by an ominous and weary soundtrack, which was very noirish. I would have been perfectly content for the movie to continue in this manner and end badly, but the scriptwriters went for the political angle, and turned this into a bildungsroman of sorts. That is to say the movie becomes about Anne's growth and she redeems herself under the wing of Paul.
This second half of the movie is dissatisfying, firstly in that it becomes propagandish, Clément is shown as being part of a shady international network of fascists holding old grudges, whereas of course Paul lives the simple life. Clément's communist equivalents were just as militant and obscure, but the movie doesn't show this. The element of personal growth here is also not very satisfying, generally in the bildungsroman form you get personal growth being achieved only by painstaking efforts, Anne here is doing little more than bedhopping and having a nice stay in the country on Paul's tab.
The action sequence at the end of the film (which the title refers to) is handled with an absolute minimum of suspense and is bizarrely anticlimactic, even it's mere existence didn't seem in keeping with the rest of the film, as if director and scriptwriter couldn't get straight what type of story they were telling.
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