LʼEnfer dʼHenri Georges-Clouzot

Serge Bromberg, Ruxandra Medrea

Trad. let.: L’Inferno di Henri-Georges Clouzot; Ideazione: Serge Bromberg, dai rushes di L’Enfer (1964) di Henri-Georges Clouzot; Scen.: Henri-Georges Clouzot, José-André Lacour, Jean Ferry; F.: Andréas Winding, Armand Thirard; Su.: William-Robert Sivel; Int.: Romy Schneider (Odette), Serge Reggiani (Marcel), Dany Carrel (Marylou), Jean-Claude Bercq (Martineau), Maurice Garrel (Dr. Arnoux), Mario David (Julien); crediti film 2009: Op.: Irina Lubtchansky, Jérôme Krumenacker; Mo.: Janice Jones; Scgf.: Nicolas Faure; Mu.: Bruno Alexiu; Su.: Jean Gargonne; Int.: Bérénice Bejo (Odette), Jacques Gamblin (Marcel); Prod.: Serge Bromberg per Lobster Films/France 2 Cinéma/MK2; Pri. pro.: 19 maggio 2009 35mm. D.: 95’ 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

My point of departure is always very subjective. (…) L’Enfer was a strange journey because I started out from myself, despite the fact that I am not at all a jealous person. But I am an insomniac, and I thought of the obsessions of a man who suffers from insomnia. I was looking for an obsession that could be shared with an audience in two hours, considering that it takes a man several years to develop an obsession, and I decided that it could be jealousy. The hallucinatory scenes of obsession of L’Enfer led me on an aesthetic research, which gave me the idea of a new photographic process, of my own invention and that I am using for a photo album. My research made me decide to make the male character of my next film [La Prisonnière, Ed.] a photographer. My screenplay may still change. One time I saw Picasso start a painting of a still life, and the final painting was of a woman’s body…

Henri-Georges Clouzot, Entretien avec Henri-Georges Clouzot, Claire Clouzot (ed.), “Cinéma 65”, n. 96, May 1965

Clouzot perhaps embodies a kind of unrestrained “politique des auteurs” ahead of his time. This is the case for L’Enfer: a filmmaker without a producer. Clouzot always had a producer but not for this film. For the first time, an American company, Columbia, gave him full power as director without putting a producer over him to check everything. (…) Clouzot has the power to run at great speed, but where to? We might ask ourselves if perhaps he didn’t forget his destination along the way. It became a kind of confusion, and it is the enigma of our film, which we do not explain. His idea was to go beyond the limits of what had been done with film up until then. But how? In what direction? The Nouvelle Vague had “invented” a type of filmmaking a year before (…). He didn’t give a damn that they considered him a thing of the past; he made his movies how he wanted to and this is especially true for this film. Stung by this young movement embodying modernity, devastated by the death of his wife Vera, Clouzot was convinced he could invent a new form of cinema. He set a path for himself and wanted to go beyond it. He conceived of a new way of filming actors, new ways of evoking psychological tension between characters. He exposed himself to new means – and, maybe or maybe not, he realized along the way that it wasn’t working out. It was a unique moment in which he could create in total freedom. The only freedom he didn’t have was time. As more time passed, the more it was inevitable that someone would say: “Everything stops here”. And yet no preplanned shooting schedule exists. Of course there was a production manager, Claude Ganz, but no one had the courage to stop Clouzot’s momentum. The Master had to be left alone to work. He listened to no one. For over two months he filmed “test shots”, playing with visual effects, using kinetic art, putting Romy Schneider (Odette) under revolving lights, etc. But they were just trial runs and nothing else. Nobody knew if they would be used in the final film or if they were just tests for later shots in the studio. (…) Originally the film was planned over eighteen weeks, but it stopped after three. None of the intimate scenes had been shot, which were supposed to have been the larger part of the story. For example, Romy Schneider’s voice does not seem to have been recorded during her stay [at Garabit]. This was also because she was nothing other than the object of fascination and jealousy of the main character Marcel (Serge Reggiani). He was the one who had to be heard, his internal voices. All of his madness was to come through sound first and then visually. (…) The film’s sounds and images had to be dis- torted. There are only a few sequences that would have been used in the final cut. The remains of L’Enfer are a kind of creator’s notepad. Perhaps most of the pieces of the puzzle are here, but Clouzot still was not sure how he would have put them all together. There is a découpage but it contains no description of phantasmal images. It just mentions “image-choc” several times. L’Enfer is nothing but an Atlantis; (…)

We used all the rushes found. They include double shots, shots Clouzot had chosen on the set after having seen the rushes (we only have the negative). There 180 boxes, each one containing three to eight minutes of color tests or black and white shots. (…) Our film based on the rushes of L’Enfer has three sides to it: 1) the downward spiral of Marcel, the film’s main character; 2) the downward spiral of Clouzot, the creative force behind the movie, his first original screenplay; 3) the irresistible charm of Romy Schneider. We tell these three interwoven stories, which are the story of a man who locks himself in his own labyrinth. It is obvious that Clouzot was a victim of a glorified notoriety. By pampering him, the Americans gave him the kiss of death; giving him an unlimited budget, they killed him.

Serge Bromberg, excerpt from Entretien avec Serge Bromberg. Un homme qui s’enferme dans son propre labyrinthe, “Positif”, n. 579, May 2009

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