Torment (1994)

A man descends into madness when he suspects his wife is cheating on him in Chabrol’s decent exercise in the distortion of psychological realities.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,309

Dir. Claude Chabrol
1994 | France | Drama/Thriller | 102 mins | 1.66:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be M18 for sexual scenes and mature theme

Cast: Emmanuelle Beart, Francois Cluzet, Marc Lavoine
Plot: Paul has just bought a charming waterfront hotel in France, putting himself in debt for the next 10 years. Setting to work with his beautiful wife, and a child soon on the way, Paul becomes suspicious of his partner after catching her in ambiguous situations with the hotel guests.
Source: MK2

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Infidelity; Psychological Issues
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

I’m really enjoying these Claude Chabrol suspense movies offered on MUBI.  Torment is already my ninth of his works, and while it isn’t an outstanding piece by his standards, it is a decent and engaging exercise in the distortion of psychological realities. 

Adapted from an original screenplay first co-written by the great Henri-Georges Clouzot, who didn’t manage to complete filming, Torment takes the well-worn storyline of a man who suspects his wife is cheating on him and turns it into psychological torture. 

Tormented by the uncertainty of his suspicions, Paul (Francois Cluzet) descends into madness, forcing his wife, Nelly (Emmanuelle Beart), to go down the hellhole with him. 

“I don’t know anymore. I’m losing it.”

They begin as a loving couple in charge of a hotel (a new investment by Paul whose insecurity over the immense debt also pours into his troubled mental space), but as their relationship sours, the hotel guests and employees become privy to the breakdown. 

Chabrol, however, leaves the worst to the private space of the couple’s bedroom, most notably in the intense climax where all sense of what is real or imagined—perhaps even dreamt of—becomes a blur. 

Torment might make an interesting if offbeat double-bill with Aronofsky’s Mother! (2017), where relationships are tested to the extreme. 

Chabrol’s work is, of course, more down-to-earth compared to the stylised sensationalism of Aronofsky’s misunderstood flick.  There is also a similar sense of claustrophobia, where the experience of being locked in the mind, is rendered with skill through mise-en-scene and editing.  Worth a pop. 

Grade: B+



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