an unrecognizable Bruno Solo as a man alienated by his destiny


Simon (Bruno Solo) doesn’t like going out. Mathematics teacher, he preferred, that evening, to stay at home to correct copies, while his wife, Christine (Delphine Rollin), went to spend the evening with friends. Having drunk several glasses of whiskey and having lost himself in the contemplation of his electric train, Simon did not hear any suspicious noise, while on the first floor of his house, Belle Sherman, a young Englishwoman staying with the couple, had him strangled in his room, around 1 a.m.

In the petty bourgeois world to which Simon entered through his marriage without ever feeling accepted, eyes became suspicious of this man of modest origins, solitary and secretive. The deep isolation in which Simon then takes refuge awakens neuroses which soon overwhelm him, to the point of making him commit the irreparable.

Underground violence

Adapted from Belle’s Death, novel written in the United States by Georges Simenon when he lived there in 1951 – already adapted to the cinema in 1961 by Edouard Molinaro –, to hell installs in a strangely calm way an oppressive climate around the confinement (one could say internment) of a character, first in a small provincial town, and then on himself. Tensed by an underground violence, this fiction eyeing the side of Chabrol, and more particularly that of the period Landru (1963), The Unfaithful Wife (1969), The butcher (1970). The same weight of suspicion, the same discreet anxiety, the same contrary tensions running through the characters.

For this fourth adaptation of Simenon – after The Escape of Mr. World (2004), Innocents (2006) and In case of misfortune (2009) – the screenwriter Jacques Santamaria says he has never gone so far in reading this author, whose work is much more attached to the characters who perform the action than to the action itself. Thereby, to hell questions more about a pathology (sexual impotence) than about the plot.

Bruno Solo finds there one of his finest dramatic roles. The challenge was enormous, but he took it up without hesitation, aware of the gift offered to him to carry this character of an ordinary and fragile man crushed by fate. Because Simenon – and it is not the least merit of the telefilm to make us feel it – is a writer of tragedy. An author haunted by human nature, who never stopped creating beings alienated by their destiny, prisoners of their instincts.

It is this type of character that Bruno Solo interprets, unrecognizable in this bewildered terror expressed by his face: a Simon who has silenced his demons until the day when an event tears him from the family cocoon.

to hell, by Denis Malleval (France, 2009, 90 mins). With Bruno Solo, Delphine Rollin, Yvon Back, Jacques Spiesser.

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