The Fire Within

Overview

Maurice Ronet plays an alcoholic writer, Alain Leroy, who is on the verge of suicide his character is based on writer Jacques Rigaut, who killed himself in 1929. The psychiatrist assigned to Leroy is no help, advising his patient to seek a reconciliation with his wife, who is still smarting from Leroy's recent liaison with Lydia Lena Skerla. Still obsessed with the notion of taking his own life, Leroy plans to stage his demise on July 23. A last-ditch effort to jolly himself out of his doldrums fails, and Leroy, ...
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Overview

Maurice Ronet plays an alcoholic writer, Alain Leroy, who is on the verge of suicide his character is based on writer Jacques Rigaut, who killed himself in 1929. The psychiatrist assigned to Leroy is no help, advising his patient to seek a reconciliation with his wife, who is still smarting from Leroy's recent liaison with Lydia Lena Skerla. Still obsessed with the notion of taking his own life, Leroy plans to stage his demise on July 23. A last-ditch effort to jolly himself out of his doldrums fails, and Leroy, with a picture of Marilyn Monroe at his side, snuffs himself out. Though a case study of a man victimized by his own isolationism, The Fire Within has some surprising random optimistic moments. The French title for The Fire Within is Le Feu Follet, which was also the title of the novel by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle another suicide! from which this film was adapted.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
One of the most ingeniously conceived, directed, and performed feature films of early '60s Europe opened for around a week in the U.S. and faded into obscurity for the following decade; Pauline Kael heralded it as a masterpiece and evidence of Louis Malle's genius in her 1971 New Yorker review of Le Souffle au Coeur, which temporarily lifted The Fire Within into the public mindset. In retrospect, the reasons for Le Feu Follet's lack of initial recognition are obvious: by conceptually forcing the viewer into the psyche of a self-destructive individual and thus eliminating all onscreen feeling the film deliberately lacks an emotional subtext, Malle alienates half of his audience. Evidently, American viewers -- still recovering from the Kennedy assassination in February 1964 -- didn't particularly want to be drawn into a state of suicidal numbness. But this feature contains one of the most dynamic aural-visual couplings in modern film. The stark, hi-con black-and-white cinematography and the Erik Satie music -- each perfectly evocative by itself -- not only accentuate but complete each other, and form an impeccable accessory to the thematic nihilism of the piece. In fact, Malle's aesthetic evocation of psychodrama was so groundbreaking at the time that it made a permanent stylistic impact on many less-inspired cinematic explorations of behavioral dysfunction -- such as Lady in a Cage, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, and Mickey One which, not coincidentally was also lensed by Ghislain Cloquet. Malle's narrative architecture is equally brilliant -- he structures the work like a piece of classical music, rich with recurrences and variations. And this overall démarche -- coupled with a chilling central performance in which Maurice Ronet completely disappears into the character of Alain Leroy -- enables the director to successfully craft an existential apologetic for suicide. Malle travels more deeply into the self-destructive mindset than any filmmaker before or since -- a decision that evinces boundless courage and humanistic empathy.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/1/1998
  • UPC: 717119007232
  • Original Release: 1963
  • Source: New Yorker Video
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Maurice Ronet Alain Leroy
Jeanne Moreau Eva
Lena Skerla Lydia
Yvonne Clech Mademoiselle Farnoux
Alexandra Stewart Solange
Mona Dol Madame La Barbinais
Bernard Noel Dubourg
Ursula Kubler Fanny
Alain Mottet Urcel
Henri Serre Frederic
René Dupré Charlie
Hubert Deschamps D'Avereau
Jean-Paul Moulinot Dr. La Barbinais
Pierre Moncorbier Moraine
Bernard Tiphaine Milou
Francois Gragnon Francois Minville
Romain Bouteille Jerome Minville
Jacques Sereys Cyrille Lavaud
Technical Credits
Louis Malle Director, Screenwriter
Suzanne Baron Editor
Ghislain Cloquet Cinematographer
Bernard Evein Art Director
Monique Nana Editor
Alain Queffelean Producer
Volker Schlöndorff Asst. Director
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