This is one of those rare films, a social and psychological drama that remains taut and absorbing throughout due to a rare combination of observant direction, expert thesping and an insight into the personages.
A woman has tried to poison her husband in a provincial section of France. She is freed when he does not press charges. But on her way back to him she thinks over what led to it. She is a sensitive almost exalted girl who marries the son of a rich, landed family. But the man is direct, stuffy and incapable of awakening any feeling or love in her. She becomes frigid, dissatisfied and disenchanted.
Emmanuelle Riva has a way of overcoming her ordinary looks by an intense projection of internal sincerity, and etches a brilliant picture of this fragile tragic woman almost destroyed by human pettiness, pride and indifference. Others all limn their parts well.
Director Georges Franju keeps this [adaptation of Francois Mauriac’s novel] from being literary, in spite of a commentary, by a controlled feel for visual detail, and a pace and rhythm that build this probing drama into a film of strength and originality.