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The Fire Within

Released Oct 7, 1966 1h 48m Drama List
82% Tomatometer 11 Reviews 90% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings
An alcoholic French intellectual (Maurice Ronet) sets a date to die, then shoots himself. Read More Read Less

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The Fire Within

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Critics Reviews

View All (11) Critics Reviews
Dan Callahan Slant Magazine To be frank, Fire Within devastated me when I saw it in college, but the unrelieved ennui that struck me as scrupulously honest and brave then looks one-note and aimless to me now. Rated: 2/4 May 5, 2008 Full Review Geoff Andrew Time Out Arguably the finest of Malle's early films. Jan 26, 2006 Full Review A.H. Weiler New York Times Highly introspective, often tenderly touching and sometimes tediously redundant. Rated: 4/5 May 9, 2005 Full Review Isabel Quigly The Spectator It's hard not to feel impatient with the self-absorbed hero, but his ravaged face ends by arousing pity and even a pinch of awe. Jul 17, 2020 Full Review TV Guide Generally regarded as Malle's best work. Rated: 3/4 Oct 24, 2007 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Rated: 4/5 Jun 13, 2005 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (131) audience reviews
dave s Alain Leroy (Maurice Ronet), a well-respected writer, suffers from alcoholism and lengthy bouts of depression. Unable to attach meaning to his life, he decides to commit suicide and spends the last day of his life wandering the streets of Paris seeking out old friends. Louis Malle's The Fire Within is a somber film, to say the least, as it follows Leroy over the course of the day, slowly uncovering the layers of his suffering as he prepares to ‘leave'. Ronet is excellent in the lead role, but what makes the movie so good is Malle's screenplay – intelligent, insightful, and thought-provoking. More importantly, considering the subject matter, it never becomes sentimental or overly maudlin. The Fire Within would seem to be one of Malle's lesser-known works, but it is also might be one of his best. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Audience Member This a brilliant film, one of real substance, but be forewarned - the subject matter is a bit dark, and an air of melancholy pervades it. Maurice Ronet plays a man who we first meet in bed with a lover (Léna Skerla), who knows his wife and works in New York. She drops him back off at a rehab clinic, and we gradually come to understand that he's an alcoholic and his wife has left him. There are some nice moments in the clinic, including a conversation with his doctor (Jean-Paul Moulinot) who believes he is cured and should be released, which Ronet's character actually doesn't want. The film picks up when he makes an excursion to Paris to meet his old friends. Aside from the beautiful street scenes which director Louis Malle captures of Paris, we find out further what this guy was like before his marriage, and why he ended up in a clinic. His friends and acquaintances recount legendary feats of drinking and funny moments such as him once sleeping on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier thinking he was in his own bed. They also comment on his haggard appearance. The former reveler meets one friend who has settled down and finds meaning in researching ancient Egypt, others who paint and take recreational drugs (including Jeanne Moreau), a pair who are planning their next crime, and his old lover who is now involved with an opinionated bore. It's incredibly poignant to see him no longer connected to those he was so close with earlier in his life, and that's a feeling we can identify with without being suicidal. Ronet delivers a strong performance, playing his part with authenticity. I think in this kind of role it's tough to avoid overacting, either in a melodramatic or cloying way, but he pulls it off. The supporting cast is also outstanding. The most touching moment for me came when Ronet asks his friend to simply accept him as he is. Suicide is presented here in part as an outcome of feeling hopeless, but also as a choice - in this case one made against the alternative, transitioning into the phase of settling down into adulthood and middle age, "growing up" if you will. Ronet's character sees no interest in that, and meeting his old friends doesn't change his outlook. He also knows he can't go backwards, and understands that he will inevitably drink again and cause the same sort of destruction in his life. While morose, there is an intellectual aspect to his perspective and the film in general, and because of that, it doesn't end up wallowing in despair, which is a good thing. With that said, I knocked it down slightly simply because of its darkness. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/13/23 Full Review Audience Member It's uncomfortable to watch, because it slowly makes us self aware of the respective bodies we live in. Not as effectively as, say, Synechdoche New York, but still with a considerable amount of passion. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/14/23 Full Review dave j Opens with a narration of a young man making out with a young woman, and as viewers continue to watch this young man is not all their as writer, Alain Leroy,(Maurice Ronet) is not happy and is seeking for the meaning of his existence. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review john m It's dark as fuck but beautiful and philosophical, quiet and meaningful. It's a real character study that makes you think things will be solved that never do. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member This is considered to be an essential film for Louis Malle. It is highly regarded. Yet now entering the tail end of my 40's I still do not care for this film. I can certainly appreciate the style, the acting and there are some memorable cinematic moments. The thing about "Le Feu Follet" is that I simply do not care for any of the characters -- most importantly the lead characters. The world in which the film takes place may very well exist, but this is a petty and vacant sort of existence. Each and every character seems shallow. I just do not care about the character at the center of this entitled world. After three viewings paced some ten plus year apart I also have to write that I do not care for this film. I'm giving it 2 Stars as I have spent some considerable time with it. That must count for something. Ghislain Cloquet's cinematography is this film's strongest asset. Or maybe I'm just missing the point. There are a great number of people I respect who love this film. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 02/22/23 Full Review Read all reviews
The Fire Within

My Rating


Cast & Crew

The Truth 67% 88% The Truth The Girl on a Motorcycle 38% 50% The Girl on a Motorcycle Contempt 92% 85% Contempt TRAILER for Contempt L'Amour Fou 100% 92% L'Amour Fou Drive, He Said 57% 21% Drive, He Said Discover more movies and TV shows. View More

Movie Info

Synopsis An alcoholic French intellectual (Maurice Ronet) sets a date to die, then shoots himself.
Louis Malle
Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Louis Malle
Gibraltar Productions, New Yorker Films, Governor Films Inc.
Production Co
Arco Films, Nouvelles Éditions de Films [fr]
Original Language
Canadian French
Release Date (Theaters)
Oct 7, 1966, Wide
Release Date (Streaming)
Nov 19, 2018
1h 48m
Sound Mix
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