The Unfaithful Wife

The Unfaithful Wife[1] (French: La Femme infidèle) is a 1969 French crime thriller film directed by Claude Chabrol. The film had a total of 682,295 admissions in France.[2]

The Unfaithful Wife
Film poster
Directed byClaude Chabrol
Produced byAndré Génovès
Written byClaude Chabrol
StarringStéphane Audran
Michel Bouquet
Maurice Ronet
Music byPierre Jansen
Dominique Zardi
CinematographyJean Rabier
Edited byJacques Gaillard
Distributed byCompagnie Française de Distribution Cinématographique
Release date
  • 22 January 1969 (1969-01-22)
Running time
98 minutes


Insurer Charles Desvallées lives in a beautiful house in the countryside near Paris with his wife Hélène and their young son. He works in the city in a leisurely job, often drinking and smoking. His wife often goes to Paris for shopping, beauty treatments and cinema sessions.

By accident he discovers she was not at the hairdresser when she was meant to be. He gradually grows more suspicious about the way she employs her time and asks a private investigator to follow her. The embarrassed detective duly reports that his wife sees a writer called Victor Pégala, at his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine, several times a week. Hélène appears in bed with Pégala, exchanging titbits about their respective lives. The writer is divorced with two children.

On a day his wife is busy hosting a birthday party for their son, Desvallées pays Pégala a visit. At first he tells the confused writer jovially that he and his wife have an open marriage and sits and talks pleasantly with him. He asks for a tour of the small flat. On seeing the bed his demeanour changes, as he pictures his wife there. He spots a giant cigarette lighter at the bedside. This had been a 3rd anniversary present to his wife from him. He starts to feel unwell and suddenly grabs a stone bust and kills Pégala with a violent blow to the head.

Desvallée calms down and meticulously cleans up and removes all fingerprints. He then brings his car round near the back gate, bundles up the body, and drags it in broad daylight but in a quiet neighbourhood to the car, where he stuffs it in the boot.

En route he is rear-ended by a van after braking distractedly. Desvallée nearly panics and hurries the formalities with the other driver as a crowd assembles and a policeman remarks that his boot is now jammed. He dumps the body into a murky pond where it takes an agonisingly long time to sink.

A day or two later, Hélène is grumpy and unwell. Two detectives turn up in the daytime to interrogate her about Victor Pégala, who has been reported missing by his ex-wife. They have found her name and details in the missing man's address book. She is flustered and avoids giving direct answers as to how she knew Victor. In the evening, she mentions the disappearance to her husband, claiming Pégala was only a vague acquaintance. The detectives return and interrogate both Hélène and Charles, who denies having even heard of the man before.

Hélène finds a photograph of Victor in her husband's jacket pocket with his name and address on the back. She looks as if she is going to confront him but she goes outside and burns it. Her emotions are difficult to read.

In the final scene the family is in their garden when the two policemen walk up the drive. Charles tells Hélène that he "loves her madly" and goes to speak to the police. The camera then moves back to the wife and child, slowly panning until they disappear hidden by soft focus foliage as Charles is presumably taken away from them.



The film was commercially unsuccessful in France (only 682,295 admissions) but was praised by critics. The New York Times said that "in concept and execution, it is a film so calmly and thoughtfully perverse that it can have been born only in the unique cinematic imagination of Claude Chabrol."[3] Time Out called it "one of Chabrol's mid-period masterpieces, a brilliantly ambivalent scrutiny of bourgeois marriage and murder."[4] Derek Malcolm wrote in The Guardian that "Chabrol displays an irrestistible logic and an ironic humour", and "what could have been just another thriller becomes... also a passionate love story, with its share of intense irony and a pervading sense of the quirkiness of fate."[5] TV Guide called it "arguably the best of Chabrol's superb, Hitchcockian studies of guilt, love, and murder among the French elite", and said that "Michel Bouquet and Stéphane Audran... give perhaps the finest performances of their careers."[6]


It was remade in Filipino in 1995 as Sa ngalan ng pag-ibig & in American English in 2002 as Unfaithful, directed by Adrian Lyne. In 2004 it was remade twice in Hindi. One was Hawas & the other one was Murder. It was also remade in Kannada, which is another Indian language as Ganda Hendathi.


  1. "The Unfaithful Wife." Retrieved on 7 January 2009.
  2. JP (1969-01-22). "La Femme infidèle (1968)". JPBox-Office. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
  3. Greenspun, Roger (1969-11-10). "Screen: Unfaithful Wife". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-09-09.
  4. "The Unfaithful Wife (1968) | Film review". Time Out London. Retrieved 2019-09-09.
  5. Malcolm, Derek (1999-04-28). "Claude Chabrol: La Femme Infidele". Retrieved 2019-09-09.
  6. Scheinfeld, Michael. "La Femme Infidele | TV Guide". Retrieved 2019-09-22.
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