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The Fire Within / Le Feu follet (1963)


“The Fire Within (Le Feu follet)” is a 1963 French drama film about an alcoholic man who thinks about suicide. Direction and screenplay by Louis Malle. The screenplay is based on the novel “Will O’ the Wisp” (1931) by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, which was inspired by the life of Dadaist/surrealist poet Jacques Rigaut. Black & white. 108 minutes.


An ex-officer in the Algerian War and an intellectual man, Alain Leroy (Maurice Ronet) had once lived with his wife Dorothy in New York, but he returned to France for the treatment of alcoholism, leaving Dorothy.

After staying in a clinic in Versailles, he recovers fully from alcoholism, but he feels despair in his life because he refuses to become an adult and to grow old. He decides to kill himself.

On the day before suicide, he meets his old friends in Paris. He meets again his petit bourgeois friend who settles for his family life, and he also meets again his friends who work as the members of the OAS, the far-right militant organization, but he feels more empty because he cannot empathize with them.


The structure and style of the film are similar to Agnès Varda’s “Cléo from 5 to 7” (1962). The sequences in which Alain wanders in Paris were shot on location in the documentary style.

The score features Erik Satie’s piano music, “Gymnopédies” and “Gnossiennes”.

The film won the Special Jury Prize in the 1963 Venice Film Festival.