Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear, starring Yves Montand, is a French classic. It follows four men on the potentially deadly job of driving two trucks fully charged with nitro-glycerine through slippery and shaky roads, and deliver the merchandise 500 kilometres away.
This feature is interesting on several levels, or perhaps I should say layers. Of course, there is the story, its plot and characters. Yet if you focus on their emotions, it becomes even more interesting. And in this film, the emotion of predilection is fear, it is present within each and every character, no matter how hard they try to hide it. But how do you define fear? Perhaps it could be described as a feeling that kicks in at the sight of perceived danger or threat. For the spectator, this story is about observing and noticing fear, and how it expresses itself on the outside, where it can be seen.
The atmosphere throughout this film is one of tension and doubt, holding the spectator in a state of unsettlement and agitation. In moments, the interactions between the different characters, their personality, made me think of Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men. As the story unfolded, the action and its physicality became more and more conspicuous, pushing the towards a tone that could remind the one of Steven Spielberg’s Duel.
Nevertheless, I am not inferring that there might be a voluntary connection between these films, what I am saying is that behind the visible, these films have similarities in their meanings, the way in which they communicate with the audience.
The Wages of Fear is a story about how some men chose to cope with fear.