In today’s cinema, M. Night Shyamalan is synonymous with plot twists. It has become expected. So much so, that it often detracts from the film itself with audiences trying to figure it out instead of enjoying the entertainment. The past master was of course the late great Alfred Hitchcock. However, Hitchcock knew how to mic things up and keep his audiences on their toes. As did Henri-Georges Clouzot, who probably surpasses both in terms of the element of surprise. Diabolique is one of his finest.
Christina Delassalle (Véra Clouzot) owns and teaches at a boarding school on the outskirts of Paris. However, it’s her husband Michel (Paul Meurisse) who’s the school principal. His tyranny stretches outside of work, emotionally and Physically abusing the sickly Christina. Michel’s also having an affair with their colleague Nicole (Simone Signoret). Christina and Nicole, who are close, decide that Michel has finally gone too far; hatching a plot to kill him.
Diabolique is a beautifully made suspenseful thriller. Clouzot immaculately constructs each scene in order to keep the audience on edge. The two female leads are superb, deftly illustrating the complicated and contradictory relationship they have. The tension and anxiety feel at their situation transposes itself onto the audience. Leading to a nail-biting final third. Diabolique in a classic thriller which almost single-handedly created a new genre.
Diabolique is released on Blu-ray by Criterion on Monday 5 June.