A polemical picture, deliberately made by cowriter-director Cayatte to influence an audience's views about the efficacy of capital punishment as a deterrent to murder, this poses the question, "If you were the president of the Republic, would you want this man to die?" The film details,
in case-history fashion, the stories of five condemned murderers. The five prisoners await the guillotine nervously, listening for the small sounds that will announce the coming of the stocking-footed guards who hope to seize the inmates unaware (a stratagem that passes for mercy) and transport
them to their terminal rites. The condemned Gino (Pellegrin) is a Corsican trapped by an archaic tradition of family honor and vengeance that require him to kill a transgressor, adhering to a law older than the judicial system that condemned him. A physician (Balpetre) has been convicted on
circumstantial evidence of poisoning his wife. An illiterate peasant (Verdier) murdered his infant daughter because her crying interfered with his sleep. A victim of a brain tumor (Marcel Peres)--since surgically removed--raped and murdered a child. In the most detailed of the histories, Rene Le
Guen's (Mouloudji's), the progress of this much-brutalized slum child is depicted through his adulthood and his small-arms training and recruitment into the Resistance during the occupation of WWII, a time when he found social rewards and admiration to be connected with killing.
Cayatte, himself an attorney, presents his case against judicial murder fairly; he deliberately avoids highly charged emotional scenes, preferring to undertake the method espoused by theatrical theorist Berthold Brecht, that is, giving his viewers a chance to use their own minds. This is one of
four judicial films directed by Cayatte. In Britain, the film's title received a question mark, avoiding Cayatte's apparent presumption of guilt.
Cast & Details See all »
- Rating: NR
- Review: A polemical picture, deliberately made by cowriter-director Cayatte to influence an audience's views about the efficacy of capital punishment as a deterrent to murder, this poses the question, "If you were the president of the Republic, would you want this… (more)