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Great example of French Existentialism

  • Jul 12, 2010

What Pompted You to write a Review?
This is a film where I could see the French Existential philosophy in action.

How was the Plot, Acting, Direction?

The plot of this film was about truckers hauling very explosive nitroglycerin through the South American jungle to a mining camp.  This was very dangerous work as just one bump could lead to the tanker truck exploding. However, instead of writing this as a suspense drama, this film was focused on the relationships between the various driving teams and the people they interacted with on the way from the pick up point to the final destination. The film was in black and white and the sets were very simple.  This helps the audience focus on the characters. 

Even though Yves Montand was the led actor, all of the supporting cast was just as strong in their protrayals of the other drivers.  The only one that played up her part a bit much was Vera Clouzot, as Linda, a waitress at the town the truckers were based. 

The roles of the trucking partners were well written.  Instead of just drivers, we saw them as people with thoughts and concrete plans for the future.  Most of the times when we have characters in peril, the parts are written as sketches of the person instead of as a full character.  When some of these drivers die as a part of their work in the film, you feel a deep loss.

The director did an excellent job of drawing out the best performances he could of all of the actors.  Clouzot may have had  some problem as she is coming from a South American background whereas the others were all European.


This movie kept my attention because it was so different from American movies with either everything happy or everything sad or angry.  In the spirit of existentialism, often times you would see people getting along and doing well in one scene, then in the next it would show how all of their work was for nothing.  Likewise, you would see someone in another scene be horrible to another, yet this person had nothing bad happen to them.

Did It Fulfill Expectations? Hype Level?
I was not expecting much when I went to this film, but was very pleasantly surprised at how good this film was. 

Did a Movie Trailer Establish a HYPE?

The movie trailer, which I saw a few years after seeing the movie, makes the movie seem like an action adventure film.  I think if I had seen the trailer firs, I might have had very different expectations of the film.

Is This Movie Mainstream Or Pretty Obscure?
Pretty obscure to US audiences.

Let Your Senses and Imagination Go Wild!

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. I honestly was not expecting much since I was going to see it for extra credit for a class, though.

What made this film even more entertaining for me than the fine performances of Yves Montand and his co-stars was how it applied French existentialist philosophy in its plot line.  Basically existentialist thought basically says that not matter what you do, good or bad, you will not get ahead for your actions.  Things just happen regardless of what you do.  Driving trucks full of explosive nitroglycerin before having the types of safety controls we have today was a perfect situation to apply this philosophy.  Some drivers that were extra careful still had their truck explode, while some sloppy drivers got to the final destination.  

I do not think I would have enjoyed this film if it were in color.  The black and white film added to the kind of airy feeling of the film and helped with focusing our attention on the characters.

The only disappointment was the sappy performance of Vera Clouzot.    She did not do a very good job of buliding up to her emotions so she appeared more of a cartoon character than a dramatic actress.  However, her performance did not take much away from the film as the other performers put in very strong, solid acting into their roles.

Above all, Establish Your Star Rating 1-5 Or 1-10?
Ten out of ten stars

Define what the Star rating mean to you...
This film was entertaining and made me think while I was watching the movie. 

How would you recommend the movie?

I would recommend this movie to people who like strong characters and would not be upset by non-happy endings.

What did you think of this review?

Fun to Read
Post a Comment
July 13, 2010
Excellent write up! I love it. Oh, please feel free to write your reviews however you are comfortable with. We in the Hype community encourage freedom in writing. I like existential themes; have you seen 13 TZAMETI and Revanche? Pretty good movies too.
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posted in Movie Hype
One of the best examples of the French existentialist movement in movies.
About the reviewer
Gwynne Osaki ()
Ranked #80
Member Since: Jul 12, 2010
Last Login: Jul 24, 2014 03:59 AM UTC
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About this movie


Remade by William Friedkin as "The Sorcerer".

Several scenes were cut for the US releases.  The deleted scenes were accused of being "anti-American".

The first film to win the Golden Palm (Cannes Film Festival) and The Golden Bear (Berlin Film Festival).
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Genre: Action, Drama, Adventure
Release Date: April 22, 1953
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Screen Writer: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Runtime: 148 minutes
Studio: CICC
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