Marcel Carne has conceived a brilliant but curiously cold film. Story of illicit love in a lower-class bourgeois setting is done with a care that that removes its melodramatic aspects and makes it an alternately absorbing and lagging film.
A modernization of the Emile Zola period piece, this evokes the infatuation and love between a manly truck driver and the wife of his officious, petty and sickly superior. The affair leads to the murder of the husband and the final destruction of the lovers.
Carne’s direction builds a heavy, brooding atmosphere of the self-indulgent, dreary life of the woman whose attempt at escape and gratification leads to her eventual destruction.
Simone Signoret is adequate as the browbeaten wife who finally breaks with her drab environment, but her sudden surrender to the bourgeois codes does not hold up. Raf Vallone, as the truck driver, adds an intense presence, but even he is betrayed by the over-elaborate unfoldment. Newcomers Jacques Duby, cast as the husband, and Roland Lesaffre, the oily witness, provide fine backing for the stars.
Lensing is brilliant and matches the heavy atmosphere of the bleak Lyon streets to the studio reconstructions.