Le Boucher is the ultimate study of suspense in cinema from Chabrol’s amazing body of work. There is very minimal action in the film, but as in most of Hitchcocks films the level of suspense surpasses any anecdotes of popcorn action sequences or CGI splendor.Through a detached atmosphere and an isolated French setting, Chabrol has created a movie seething with tension, and in a way always allows the audience to fully process its content. The fact that the movie is beautifully photographed helps the film tremendously, even as if less had happened in the film. The visuals alone elevate this film above the norm and make it a masterpiece.
From the opening title sequences we are drawn into a world torn between the veneer of civilization and the desperate struggle of love. Two very different and yet lonely souls meet and fall for each other. Cliched, yes, but it is not the theme of love that drives this film, it is the inevitable conflict, the inevitable discovery that all is not as it seems.Ultimately the truth must come forth and when it does we believe in the truth of the moment. The characterizations in the film are utterly flawless. I especially love the fact we know the main character is the killer all the way through the film, but, Chabrol allows him to develop and be a seemingly nice man to help us better realize the character and his motives.In the same way that Hitchcock was able to convey suspense through a very subtle method of mundane dialogue and minimal action sequences; The quietness of this film also gives the story a very eerie tone and slowly engrosses and builds to the inevitable climax.
Also very interesting is the way Chabrol leaves us to find the answers of what he is trying to convey based on our own ideals. For instance, the the butchers murders are apparently the result of psychological trauma sustained in the war and the school mistress’s emotional distance is that of a result of a broken heart long ago. These ideals are presented in the narrative but it is also apparent that any merit of truth is withheld behind either ideal. There is definitely a strange equivalence between the two characters that Chabrol doesn’t press too heavily, but at the same time never fully illuminates the answers to some of the questions people are searching for. The film probably has one of my favorite endings with the fade-to-black knife scene at the finish and the school mistress staring out at the sea, lost in her own secrets, continuing to help us realize the secrets of our own intrigue.