He Who Must Die

1957 [FRENCH]


Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 79%
IMDb Rating 7.5 10 805

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Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN


Top cast

Melina Mercouri as Katerina / Mary Magdalene
Gert Fröbe as Patriarcheas

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Bunuel1976 7 / 10

HE WHO MUST DIE (Jules Dassin, 1957) ***

Rather than go the usual Hollywood biblical epic route, this Good Friday I opted for an alternative "Communist" view of the tale of the Christ via 2 European films made by exiled American film-makers: Edward Dmytryk's British-made GIVE US THIS DAY aka Christ IN CONCRETE (1949) and the French film under review – both of which, incidentally, also share blacklisted screenwriter Ben Barzman. Naturally, neither of these movies is located in Roman-ruled Judea or features crucifixions and, in fact, they are allegorical in nature and modernized in setting. Celebrated Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis – on whose book "Christ Recrucified" Dassin's film was based – would die the same year HE WHO MUST DIE was released and is himself perhaps best-known for another controversial work on similar lines, "The Last Temptation Of Christ", that was filmed much later by fervently Catholic film-maker Martin Scorsese. Set in 1921 in a small Greek village under Turkish rule during Passion Week, the film deals with the moral dilemma caused by the arrival in town of a group of Greek fugitives led by their priest (Jean Servais) – the survivors of a nearby village that was burned to the ground by the Turks. The majority of the townspeople, headed by the fearsome local priest Grigoris (Fernand Ledoux) and the wealthy mayor (Gert Frobe), refuse them any help lest they be judged traitors by the Turks, but a handful are sympathetic to the fugitives' plight: Maurice Ronet (as Forbe's hesitant son), Melina Mercouri (as the popular local widow-whore) and Pierre Vanek (as a simple shepherd in Frobe's employ). HE WHO MUST DIE marked a departure for Dassin who, leaving behind his tried-and-tested noir territory in which he had excelled until then, goes straight for Art in this powerful but heavy-going drama. The villagers are deep in preparation for the annual Passion pageant on Good Friday (a tradition that is still highly popular in my neck of the woods – in fact, I had an uncle and a good friend of mine who both used to take part in local representations of this sort many years ago!) when the harassed band of countrymen pass through their town; needless to say, the resulting heated confrontations makes everybody forget all about the play but the Christ saga soon enacts itself in real-life in the person of the stuttering shepherd (who, unsurprisingly, had been the one chosen to portray Jesus in the first place). The reteaming of Servais and Carl Mohner (as a chief member of the fugitive group) – both from Dassin's legendary caper RIFIFI (1955) – could not have been more different, nor (the future Mrs. Dassin) Melina Mercouri's portrayal here – despite the surface similarities – of the proverbial "whore with a heart of gold" than that of her most famous role in Dassin's popular hit, NEVER ON Sunday (1960)! This unholy mélange of patriotism and sensuality – not to mention Communist solidarity and Christian hypocrisy – cannot fail to give rise to impressive sequences and performances (particularly a white-haired Frobe and the enigmatic 'Blond Christ' Vanek) along the way but also, at least, one major deficiency: the villagers' avowed fear of Turkish retaliation if they aid the fugitives – especially as displayed via the overstated performance of Ledoux as a vindictive Patriarch – rings false when set against the laid-back personality of the Turkish Agha (Gregoire Aslan), perennially clad in pyjamas, seemingly uninterested in anything that happens around him and perfectly happy (until the finale, that is) to let his Christian subjects fight it out amongst themselves! Likewise, the melodramatic tussles over Mercouri's favors, between the awkward, pacifist Vanek and the robust, violent Roger Hanin, seem intended to give the film an extra touch of Greek tragedy more than anything else. Nevertheless, I am grateful to have been provided with an opportunity to check out this elusive Dassin film, and also very glad that it was by way of such a (surprisingly) pristine widescreen copy.

Reviewed by planktonrules 10 / 10

Quite clever and profound...this one gets better and better as the film progresses.

"He Who Must Die", despite its title, is not some sort of film noir or action movie. On the contrary, it's a fascinating religious allegory that slowly but surely catches your attention. I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt it had some nice similarities to another excellent film, "Jesus of Montreal".

The film is set in Greece at the very end of the Turkish occupation. It begins with a village being destroyed and the remnants of the town leaving to find a new home.

The scene abruptly changes to another Greek town. This one is content and well-fed--and on friendly terms with the Turks. They also are planning on their passion play--a huge extravaganza that is held every seven years. Instead, however, of trying out for parts, the Priest and the council pick who they think should be in the play. Oddly, they announce several of the key roles (such as Jesus, John, James, Peter, Judas and Mary Magdelene) but not the full cast. Over the course of the film, the cast members slowly begin to change--to, in effect, become more and more like their parts in real life. And all this is set into motion when the bedraggled townspeople at the beginning of the film show up looking for some food and land...and the council and priest of the prosperous village cruelly drive them off and give them nothing. There are so many parallels to the life and crucifixion of Christ that they aren't worth discussing--it's something you need to see unfold for you. This movie is beautiful and full of wonderful symbolism. In addition, the message is wonderful--as are the parallels between Christ and modern times. A must see for anyone wanting to see a wonderful film--whether you are a Christian or not. Terrific, well acted and directed and hard not to love.

By the way, this French language film was directed by the blacklisted American director, Jules Dassin--one of the best directors of his age. He did NOT really understand French but still managed to make one of his best and most unheralded movies here. Just a few of the amazingly good films to see that he directed (and sometimes wrote) are "Rififi", "Thieves' Highway", "Naked City", "Brute Force" and "Night and the City". His wife (they married in 1966), Melina Mercouri, played Mary Magdelene in "He Who Must Die".

Reviewed by fredyfriedlander-1 10 / 10

Jules Dassin's "must see" movie on human attitudes face occupation

"Celui qui doit mourir" (He who must die) is one of many fine films directed by Jules Dassin, who was born in 1911. At the advanced age of 93, Dassin would merit a special live tribute since he had to suffer blacklisting and was still able to direct in exile such masterpieces as "Rififi", "Never on Sunday", "Topkapi" and "He who must die". This last movie takes place in a village in Greece, occupied by the Turks, showing the different attitudes adopted by the people face to the occupant. There is a big contrast between two priests: the rigid Grigoris (interpreted by Fernand Ledoux) and the compassionate Photis (Jean Sevais, also in "Rififi"). This was also Melina Mercouri's first collaboration with her future husband, playing a proud but very human prostitute. Among the actors, mostly French, one can not avoid mentioning the late Maurice Ronet, René Lefèvre, Roger Hanin and Pierre Vaneck, whose Manolios is probably the most important character. Also Gert Fröbe, Carl Möhner and Gregoire Aslan have astounding performances. This movie probably a bit forgotten merits a release in DVD since I do not believe it is available at present in this format. It deserves the maximum qualification (10) and let us be hopeful that Dassin who was born in the US but had to emigrate to Europe will receive a recognition for such a brilliant career.

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