After garnering international acclaim for such seminal crowd-pleasers as The Lovers and Zazie dans le métro, Louis Malle gave his fans a shock with The Fire Within (Le feu follet), a penetrating study of individual and social inertia. Maurice Ronet (Elevator to the Gallows), in an implosive, haunted performance, plays Alain Leroy, a self-destructive writer who resolves to kill himself and spends the next twenty-four hours trying to reconnect with a host of wayward friends. Unsparing in its portrait of Alain’s inner turmoil and shot with remarkable clarity, The Fire Within is one of Malle’s darkest and most personal films. —The Criterion Collection
Louis Malle (born October 30, 1932, Thumeries, France—died November 23, 1995, Beverly Hills, California, U.S.) French motion-picture director whose eclectic films were noted for their emotional realism and stylistic simplicity.
Malle’s wealthy family resisted his early interest in film but allowed him to enter the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Paris in 1950. After studying at the institute, he worked as an assistant to filmmaker Robert Bresson and codirected the documentary Le Monde du silence (1956; The Silent World) with underwater explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Malle’s first feature film, Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1957; Frantic), was a psychological thriller. His second, Les Amants (1958; The Lovers), was a commercial success and established Malle and its star, Jeanne Moreau, in the film industry. The film’s lyrical love scenes, tracked with exquisite timing, exhibit Malle’s typically bold and uninhibited treatment of sensual themes. Social alienation… read more
“Fire Within” by Luis Malle (1963) makes the viewers ask themselves and try to answer – why Alain Leroy, an intelligent, good looking man, successful with women and having friends with connections, thinks about suicide? Is there something wrong with him, and if so, what can it be? He doesn’t look like an eccentric in any way. He talks like an educated and a genuine human being, without affectation and rhetorical effects. Why could he lose the feeling of life’s value? His psychiatrist tries to persuade him to concentrate on bright side of life – the world’s challenges and mysteries, to give himself to the joys of sex and adventure. But Alain contemplates suicide not because something is wrong with him (he is quite able to enjoy life), but because something is wrong with the world. He observes that life makes people too worried, too frustrated and too indifferent or cruel to one another. He feels that the human world is crooked and he tries to understand why, and it is at this point he became disappointed in life as it is offered to us. Luis Malle gives Alain the floor/screen, gives him the chance to explain to the viewers what the problem is. With never fading curiosity and sometimes amazement we observe Alain’s “philosophical agony” vis-à-vis the human world we all live in. And the director gives more than a fair chance to Alain’s friends to try to persuade him to continue to live. The film is constructed as a kind of Platonic dialogues between a human being and world, through visual images and interpersonal situations. The film is in no way “theoretical”: all the arguments are symbolic and existentially rooted. The film is for the living human beings, not for intellectuals by profession. We as viewers are given chance to see both sides – the individual human being and the world in general. We, as if, have to decide for Alain his choice. Did Alain die in order to help us continue to live? May be, Malle made this film to reinforce our desire to live if we are able to comprehend Alain’s reasons for wanting to die. Will Alain’s suicide awaken us to a more genuine, less vain living? The actors are emotionally sensitive, intellectually proficient and semantically competent. They play characters caught between life and death, as we all are. “Fire Within” is not only an exquisitely “intellectual” but an existentially “philosophical” film of a rare organic combination of psychological sophistication and common humanity for all those who are living and thinking about life. Victor Enyutin
I can relate to this film. The searching, the dead desire, the philosophies. It's that utter disgust for and confusion of life that hurtles him into the next day. Some of the close ups and segments with the Satie music were very simple and beautiful. You could see the fleeting hopefulness in his friends' faces. Despite all of this, I too expected something more, but maybe that's the point. The ending was apt.
There’s nothing better than lying down in pitch blackness with french new wave oozing from your screen. Maybe it was because I was sleepy or Erik Satie’s piano played with my mind, but some of the… read review
I’m not exactly sure what to say about the film, except that I found myself considering what exactly Alain was thinking throughout his last hours. I realized that what I loved so much about The Fire… read review
Louis Malle directs this adaptation of La Rochelle’s account of the suicide of a friend, himself at a crossroads, having just turned 30 and his biggest hit (“The Lovers”) five years past, almost as… read review