Descent into Hell (film)

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Descent into Hell
Theatrical release poster
FrenchDescente aux enfers
Directed byFrancis Girod
Written by
Based onThe Wounded and the Slain
by David Goodis
Produced byAriel Zeitoun
CinematographyCharles Van Damme
Edited byGenevieve Winding
Music byGeorges Delerue
  • Images Investissements
  • Sofica Créations
  • Sofima
  • Investimage
Distributed byActeurs Auteurs Associés
Release date
  • 5 November 1986 (1986-11-05) (France)
Running time
88 minutes

Descent into Hell (French: Descente aux enfers) is a 1986 French psychological thriller film directed by Francis Girod from a screenplay he co-wrote with Jean-Loup Dabadie, based on the 1955 novel The Wounded and the Slain by David Goodis. The film stars Claude Brasseur and Sophie Marceau as a married couple—she with a dark secret in her past and he, an author suffering from both writer's block and alcoholism—who undergo experiences which strain their relationship to breaking point while vacationing in Haiti.


Staying in a luxurious hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, are the beautiful and sensual Lola, aged about 20, and her husband Alan, a pulp writer some 30 years older. The stay was meant to give him the opportunity to start a new book, but he spends much of the time drinking. Frustrated at his behaviour, she starts an affair with a French fellow guest. Drunk in an empty street, Alan is attacked but, defending himself with an empty bottle, leaves his assailant dead. A witness, Théophile, offers to keep quiet for a huge sum in cash, upon which he will return the bottle. Selling her jewels, Lola raises the money and throws the bottle into the sea. Not satisfied that this is the end of the story, Alan confesses to the police, who do not believe him because he can produce no proof of the killing and they have already locked up a suspect. Alan then goes to Théophile to urge him to testify, but the man attacks him and in the ensuing struggle is left nearly dead. The film ends with Alan in hospital and Lola, whose deep bond with him has been renewed, at his bedside.


Claude Braseur and Sophie Marceau had played the leads in two other films, which had attained great popularity in France: La Boum (1980) and its sequel, La Boum 2—where they played father and daughter. Their performance in Descente, given their age difference (thirty years) and the nude scenes, led to media discussions and allegations—that Brasseur had no credibility playing Lola Kolber's lover after having played her father, and that Marceau had been forced to skip enjoying her youth.[1][2]

In an interview with Europe 1, Brasseur said, "Jouer le père de Sophie Marceau dans La Boum... puis son amant dans Descente aux enfers quatre ans plus tard, est un choix qui m'a coûté très cher. Ça n'a pas surpris, ça a choqué. Quand Descente aux enfers est sorti, il y a eu une profusion de courriers adressés à Gaumont, à Sophie et moi. C'est tout juste si on ne m'accusait pas d'inceste." (“Playing Sophie Marceau's father in La Boum... then her lover in ‘Descente aux enfers’ four years later, is a choice that cost me dearly. It wasn't a surprise it shocked. When ‘Descente aux enfers’ came out, there were a lot of letters addressed to Gaumont, to Sophie and me. That’s okay if I hadn’t been accused of incest.”)[1] Girod, in a review of the 2005 DVD release of Descent into Hell, commented, "Après avoir convaincu Sophie Marceau de tourner des scènes de nudité pour les besoins du film, mon mauvais esprit m'a poussé à proposer à Claude Brasseur le rôle de son mari. Ce qui m'amusait beaucoup parce qu'il sortait des Boum où il jouait le père de Sophie. D'ailleurs, entre nous sur le tournage, on appelait Descente aux enfers… La Boum X (rires). […] Cela a moins amusé un certain nombre de spectateurs groupies de Claude Brasseur qui lui ont envoyé des lettres d'insultes, au moment de la sortie du film ('Salaud ! Tu n'as pas honte ?')." (“After convincing Sophie Marceau to shoot nudity scenes for the film, my bad mind pushed me to offer Claude Brasseur the role of her husband. That amused me a lot because he had made (the) Boum (films) where he played Sophie's father. Besides, among us on the set, we called ‘Descente aux enfers’ … La Boum X (laughs). […] This was less amusing to a certain number of Claude Brasseur's keen audience who sent him insulting letters at the time of the film's release ('Bastard! Aren't you ashamed?').”)[2]


The CD soundtrack was composed by Georges Delerue.


  1. ^ a b "Claude Brasseur: 'C'est tout juste si on ne m'accusait pas d'inceste après la sortie de Descente aux enfers" (in French). Europe 1. 25 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b Meunier, Emilie (22 December 2020). "Mort de Claude Brasseur: cet autre rôle face à Sophie Marceau qui lui a valu des insultes de la part des fans de La Boum". Télé-Loisirs (in French).

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