Just Before Nightfall is another Claude Chabrol film that focuses on infidelity and again it’s an intriguing thriller and an excellent exploration of the human condition. When a sadomasochistic game goes too far, Charles (Michel Bouquet), a married man, strangles his lover, the wife of his best friend, and then does battle with his guilty conscience. The murder happens right at the start of the film, so it’s not exactly a spoiler. Bouquet despises the games she likes to play, mostly because he sees that what she’s really getting off on is his own distaste. He’s not sure whether he wanted to murder her. He’s married to an elegant woman (Stephane Audran, Chabrol’s wife) and has a couple of nice kids and an elegant house that was designed by the victim’s husband.
His characters are generally from the section of French bourgeoisie. They’re respectable, they live in comfortable homes and work in well-paying professions, they present a facade of total respectability. But underneath there are dark passions and well-kept secrets and, at-times, the ultimate embarrassment of murder. The actors reveal their inner dilemmas with gestures more than words. Deep intentions run across surface motives. And the final gesture of this compelling film casts all that went before into another, deeper level. All the main characters are developed well and believable. The main character, Charles, is certainly the most interesting ; the way that guilt overtakes him provides a different take on the common murderer theme and makes for a very interesting watch. Guilt, forgiveness, revenge coexist and mutually triumph. Many of us assume these three moral stances are mutually irreconcilable. Chabrol balances them against each other and then fuses them together.