The Fire Within

The Fire Within (French: Le Feu follet [lə fø fɔlɛ], meaning "The Manic Fire" or "Will-o'-the-Wisp") is a 1963 drama film written and directed by Louis Malle, based on the 1931 novel Will O' the Wisp by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, which itself was inspired by the life of Jacques Rigaut. The film stars Maurice Ronet, Jeanne Moreau—who had previously worked with Ronet and Malle in Elevator to the Gallows—as well as Alexandra Stewart, Bernard Noel, Lena Skerla, Hubert Deschamps and Yvonne Clech. The score features the music of Erik Satie.

The Fire Within
Le Feu follet.jpg
Theatrical release poster
FrenchLe Feu follet
Directed byLouis Malle
Screenplay byLouis Malle
Based onWill O' the Wisp
by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle
Produced byAlain Quefféléan
StarringMaurice Ronet
CinematographyGhislain Cloquet
Edited bySuzanne Baron
Music byErik Satie
  • Nouvelles Éditions de Films
  • Arco Film
Distributed by
  • Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France (France)
  • Ci. Ti. Cinematografica (Italy)
Release dates
  • 2 September 1963 (1963-09-02) (Venice)
  • 15 October 1963 (1963-10-15) (France)
  • 2 November 1963 (1963-11-02) (Italy)
Running time
108 minutes
  • France
  • Italy


Alain Leroy is a recovering alcoholic at a rehabilitation clinic in Versailles, and he remains at the clinic, not working, even though his doctors believe he is ready to return to ordinary life. He is pensive and despondent, and is separated from his wife, who lives in New York. He intends to commit suicide, but first decides to visit his friends in Paris one final time, trying to find a reason to live.

After his arrival in Paris, he sees one friend after another and has a series of conversations, some surface-level, some introspective. After one chat at a cafe, he relapses and becomes physically ill, and is taken in by old acquaintances, who then hold a dinner party which Leroy attends. He is given more to drink at the party, and becomes sarcastic and belligerent. The stark contrast and seemingly pointless nature of his friends' bourgeois existence only brings Leroy into a state of even further frustration with his perceived absence of meaning in life.

The following morning, he receives a call from Solange, who was at the party the previous evening. She expresses interest in him, but he rebuffs her, and hangs up on her. He then shoots himself in the heart.



The film was selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 36th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[1] In his 2006 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gives the film 3.5 stars (out of four) and calls it "probably Malle's best early film."[2] Roger Ebert gave the film the same rating, describing it as a "triumph of style."[3]

American director Wes Anderson's works were generally influenced by Malle, with The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) particularly drawing from The Fire Within.[4] A line from The Fire Within is also translated into English and appears as "I'm going to kill myself tomorrow" in The Royal Tenenbaums.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  2. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2005). Leonard Maltin's 2006 Movie Guide. New York: Signet. ISBN 978-0-45121-609-0.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (16 October 1969). "The Fire Within Movie Review & Film Summary (1964)". Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  4. ^ Monahan, Mark (9 March 2002). "Film-makers on film: Wes Anderson". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
  5. ^ Perkins, Claire (2012). American Smart Cinema. Edinburgh University Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-74865-425-3.

External linksEdit