When small-time crook Ralph Schwarz (Charles Boyer) is released from prison early for good behaviour, he heads straight back to his girlfriend Ania, unaware that she's having an affair with Gustave, a successful photographer. Knowing Ralph's violent temper, Ania's smart move would be to drop Gustave without delay. But she's unable to resist a good thing, any more than Ralph can resist the murderous rage that consumes him when he finds out.
Set almost entirely at night or in shadowy gloom that seems to press in upon the characters, Tumultes is a dark film both thematically and optically. It doesn't leave you with a good feeling about the human race. We are, in Siodmak's vision, wretched creatures, imprisoned and ultimately destroyed by our lowest impulses. Twice in the film Ralph gets free from captivity. But his freedom is illusory. His obsessive jealousy and pride, centred around the femme fatale Ania, make his downfall a grim inevitability.
Charles Boyer is magnificent as the unlikeable but fascinating Ralph. As in the best noirs, there is a tragic dignity about this doomed anti-hero, and Boyer captures this perfectly in the lull before the final storm, as Ralph sits quietly eating an apple with his knife while he waits for Ania's latest beau to arrive.
Siodmak's other great French noir, Pièges, is perhaps a more entertaining film, lightening the darkness with comedy and with a strong-willed central character who is in control of her fate. But Tumultes is the more concentrated, complex and psychologically penetrating of the two.
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