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La Bête Humaine (1938)

La bête humaine (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama | 19 February 1940 (USA)
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.

Director:

Jean Renoir

Writers:

Émile Zola (novel), Jean Renoir (screenplay)
Reviews
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

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

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 They both begin an affair, all the while Roubaud becomes increasingly withdrawn and starts to gamble.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

Taglines:

From the novel "La Bete Humaine" a drama of consuming passions, directed by Jean Renoir

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France

Language:

French

Release Date:

19 February 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La Bête Humaine See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paris Film See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

La Lison, the name of the locomotive, is also the name of a river (Le Lison) in eastern France, in the département of Le Doubs in the region of La Franche-Comté. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jacques Lantier: Did you feel that?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Histoire(s) du cinéma: Seul le cinéma (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

Renoir meets Zola:up where they belong.
10 March 2002 | by dbdumonteilSee all my reviews

Jean Renoir's work has been the best of all possible cinemas in the French thirties:a ruthless bourgeois wholesale massacre (la chienne,1931,Boudu sauvé des eaux,1932),Italian neorealism ten years before Rossellini,DeSica et al(Toni,1934),cinema verité before Godard (la vie est à nous ,1936)romantic and tragic pastoral,(une partie de campagne,probably his masterpiece,1936),pacifism(la grande illusion,1937,his most overrated,thus the most popular),history (la revolution française,1938)then "la bête humaine".

"La bête humaine" is arguably the best Zola screen adaptation.Seventeenth part of the Rougon-Macquart family saga-one of the peaks of French lit in the 19th century-,this could be the best with the exceptions of "l'assommoir" and "Germinal".The hero is a son of Gervaise Macquart ,Jacques Lantier.He was not mentioned in any of the previous books,because Gervaise had only 3 children (Nana,Etienne(in Germinal) and Claude (in l'oeuvre),and Zola needed one more,so he made up this fourth child from start to finish.What he needed was a hero with a history of mental illness (stemming from alcohol).Jean Gabin portrays Jacques with a sublime conviction:the scene in which he tries to strangle Blanchette Brunoy to whom he confesses he can't help it,he can't escape the terrible fate which is in store for him.

When he meets Severine(Simone Simon,the future heroine of Tourneur's "cat people'(1942)),and is attracted by her sexually,the woman,whose husband (Fernand Ledoux) is anything but handsome, feels in deep in her perverse soul, that she's found the right killer,because she has discovered he's unable to keep his self-control .

Some scenes are absolutely unforgettable:the beginning,which films the railroad tracks as never before;the railroad men dance,during which a murder is committed while a singer is crooning an old song,"le petit coeur de Ninon";the final,faithful to Zola to a fault: a train,belting in the night,gone mad,which becomes a metaphor not only for Lantier's descent into hell,but for the country (it's 1938!) heading for the darkness.Renoir had transposed the action in th thirties.These dazzling pictures perfectly echo Zola's extraordinary lines:"Elle roulait,roulait sans fin,comme affolée de plus en plus par le bruit de son haleine"(It was rolling,endlessly rolling,as if it were more and more panic-stricken by the sound of its breath).

Remake by Fritz Lang in 1954 :"human desire" with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame;although I admire Fritz Lang very much,I think his effort is neatly inferior.


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