THE DEVIL’S ENVOYS (1942)
(a.k.a. LES VISITEURS DU SOIR)
Article #1351 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-25-2004
Posting Date: 4-24-2005
Directed by Marcel Carne
Featuring Arletty, Maria Dea, Fernand Ledoux
Two minions of the devil arrive at the castle of a Baron where preparations are being made for an upcoming wedding. They intend to break the hearts of all involved.
This romantic fantasy is a tribute to the power of love. The two minions were once cruel lovers who would manipulate and destroy their partners but reached a stalemate with each other. They have now sold their souls to the devil and break hearts in his service. They have been given extraordinary powers to help them with their task, and two of my favorite moments in this movie demonstrate them. In the first, the male companion (whose kind heart will serve as both his undoing as well as his salvation) takes pity on an entertainer whose dancing bear has been killed, and the second has them slowing time to a stop so they can have time to start working on their targets. When the male companion actually falls in love with his target, the devil himself arrives to take things in his own hand. The movie is a bit slow in the middle half, but is leisurely, evocative and memorable, and I found it quite inspiring. I’m also fond of the ending, in which the devil exacts a revenge on one pair of lovers which is not only ineffective in its ultimate intent, but renders them impervious to all else he can inflict.