Based on a novel by Emile Zola, La Bete Humaine weaves a mesmerizing tale of a tragic triangle. Train engineer Jean Gabin lusts after Simone Simon, the wife of his co-worker Fernand Ledoux. When Ledoux is in danger of losing his job, Simon offers herself to her husband's boss. In jealous pique, Ledoux kills the man. Gabin is witness to this, so Simon promises to reward him sexually if he'll keep quiet. As this romance intensifies, Simon tries to finagle Gabin into killing Ledoux. Sick of the whole sordid affair, Gabin murders Simon and then kills himself. When Fritz Lang remade La Bete Humaine as Human Desire in 1953, he carefully copied several of the best visual selections made by Jean Renoir in the original film; what he was not permitted to copy was the story itself, which had to be heavily laundered to accommodate Hollywood's censorship limitations. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
This was a wonderful movie, full of life and tragedy. Gabin is a simple workman who has the nobility and honor of his era, yet he is driven across the line of decency by his own lust, which becomes his undoing. The characters are marvelously portrayed and the cinematography is rich. I enjoyed the extras especially where Renoir admits that he and Lantier jumped at the chance to do the film because they got to spend a month playing on the trains in the RATF. And who would not want to drive these coal burning dragons all over France for a month? I recommend this film highly.
It is well worthwhile to watch the Renoir statement before the movie as he provides some useful insights and his enthusiasm for the film is catching. The basic psycholgical premise in Zola's story seems somewhat dated but Renoir's screenplay and direction make it a fine film. The steam locomotives are great,