Nuits de feu (1937)

aka: Nights of Fire


Film poster
19th Century Russia. State prosecutor Fedor Andreiev is presiding over the trial of a man who murdered his wife's lover. Despite a robust defence from the brilliant young lawyer Serge Rostoff, the accused man is found guilty and will be deported to Siberia. Having spoken to the condemned man, Fedor Andreiev sees a disturbing parallel with his own life. Convinced that his wife is having an affair with Rostoff, he stages his own suicide and disappears...
© 2012

Film Review

This fairly mundane historical melodrama is a world apart from the great works of cinema that earned Marcel L'Herbier his reputation as one of the leading figures of the French avant-garde of the 1920s, silent masterpieces such as L'Homme du large (1920), Feu Mathias Pascal (1926) and L'Argent (1928).
Bio pic 1
Having neither the astonishing artistic innovation or dramatic scale of L'Herbier's earlier films, Nuits de feu is a comparatively low-key work which would be easy to overlook were it not for some fine performances from an impressive cast. Victor Francen and Gaby Morlay, two of the actors most strongly associated with the French film melodrama, are on fine form and bring an emotional realism to the film that makes up for its complacency in other departments. L'Herbier's half-hearted direction and a fairly lacklustre script fail to deliver the power and humanity of the Leo Tolstoy play on which the narrative is based (The Living Corpse, previously adapted for cinema by Fyodor Otsep in 1929), although the film is beautifully shot in a way that prefigures the work of the French poetic realists (Jean Grémillon, Marcel Carné, Julien Duvivier), adding a sense of dark foreboding and irony to the proceedings. In common with most of L'Herbier's films of the sound era, this one fails to leave much of a lasting impression.
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The director Marcel L'Herbier also worked with the actor Victor Francen on the films Forfaiture (1937) and La Révoltée (1948).

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