Countdown to New Year’s Eve 7- Le Corbeau

With 10 days to go until the release of New Year’s Eve, I decided to post every day about an influence on the novel.

Henri-Georges Clouzot will always be one of my favourite directors. I saw Les Diaboliques as a teenager, and fell in love with its pacing, its atmosphere, its terrifying climax. It made me seek out the work of Boileau-Narcejac, who wrote the original novel, and the rest of Clouzot’s oeuvre.

If you’re familiar with the director’s name, it might be because he sometimes gets called the French Hitchcock. Or perhaps you know him as the director of Wages of Fear, too: the film which has been deemed his other masterpiece. Which is a shame, because there is another film of his that I would take over Wages of Fear any day of the week. 

And it’s called Le Corbeau- (The Raven)- a feature so good it got the director banned from ever making another film.

Le Corbeau - Wikipedia

Because of the fact that Clouzot collaborated with the German occupiers in order to get the film made, and the fact that it depicts a French village steeped in immorality, it was deemed a collaborationist anti-patriotic film upon release. The resistance despised it; and once France was freed from occupation, Clouzot was prohibited from directing another feature.

But the contemporary critics failed to see the film for what it was: a seething critique of the German occupation and the purverying Nazi culture of informing on your neighbours. With Le Corbeau, Clouzot managed to bite the hand that feeds: he took Nazi money to make his film while smuggling into the screenplay a message of resistance. 

The premise of the film is delicious. A rural French village seems like a charming, idyllic place. However,  the inhabitants begin to regard each other with suspicion and resentment when letters are distributed by a mysterious figure called The Raven. Each letter accuses its inhabitants of immoral deeds, and it doesn’t take long before the village turns into a web of lies, secrets and shifting loyalties. In New Year’s Eve, I wanted to capture that same sense of secrets and resentments being unearthed throughout the novel, so that the idyll of the setting becomes a source of horror. Just as in the bucolic village of Le Corbeau, everyone has a skeleton in their closet. No one is as clean as they seem.

By the end of Le Corbeau, the community of the French have turned into a modern-day Salem; a place where no one trusts each other any more. Civilisation teeters into chaos. 

Throughout my novel, the community of Palace Gardens–the block of flats which serves as the setting for New Year’s Eve– is threatened with a similar fate.

And there is a Raven in my book, too, of sorts. An unknown figure, exposing the lies of the community, turning people against each other.

But no one knows their real identity…

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