The Snow Was Black is another esoteric and macabre film from the French flick factories that seeks to demonstrate the effects of depravity and loss of hope. Artfully acted, it remains profoundly unconvincing in motivation, without a sense of unity, and almost cheap in exploitation of shock sequences.
Our fair protagonist is a callow youth who was raised in what is euphemistically called a "house of illfame." And apparently finding his mother in bed with another man when he was a child so destroyed his values and trust in the world that he finds it necessary to stab people for entertainment to kill an old woman who had been kind to him in childhood, and in what seems to be the central scene of the film, exposes a sweet and innocent girl whom he loves and who loves him, lying prostrate and expectant, to another man. After this follows a long stream of almost ridiculous anti-climatical incidents of violence and betrayal in a Kafkaesque sort of prison. And in the end, he finds happiness in a thirty second embrace with the girl, and is led away to be shot.
Adapted from a novel by Georges Simenon, the film seems to use these more than sordid elements, not because it has a point of view, even a negativistic one, but because sex and brutality are shortcuts to suspense and audience attention. The proof of this lack of unity and pointfulness is that the aforementioned seduction scene is the climax of the film, after which it anti-climatically and ridiculously gurgles along and finally stops.
It is a credit to the excellent acting of the principals that the film can almost make one believe for a moment that being the son of a whore is enough dramatic justification for a berserk attempt to envelop all that evil has to offer. After a while the surfeit of violence and shock destroy even the dramatic incipient in them and become almost humorous.
Director Moore has only been effective in creating theatrically seperate and scattered scenes which in no way hold together. He uses good and tried techniques, such as the flashback and the symbol, but he incredibly misuses them. Daniel Gelin struggles with some artistry to maintain the sympathy and interest of the audience in his Jekyll and Hyde sort of role, and at times he is almost successful. Marie Monsart is fittingly tender and beautiful as his one true love.
The Snow Was Black is a disappointing film, not because it lacks technical skill--the photography is excellent--but because it seems almost a parody of excellent films in this genre.