There is always more beneath the surface of a Marcel Carne film. It's all in the details such as the shots of a one-eared teddy bear in the attic reflecting the hurt of the man about to be terrorized by the police. This movie - a precursor of film noir - begins almost at the end when an honest laborer, beaten down by the system, kills another man out of passion and has to hide in an attic until the police finally break down the door..at daybreak. (French law provided that the police could not enter until dawn). The story of the events leading to this dark ending is told in flashback. There is an eerie sense of dread everywhere. For example the hero (or shall I say anti-hero) works as a sandblaster in a factory and when he works, he is sealed in a cold suit of metal...all the while dark, demonic shadows abound or sulfurous fumes escape. In the same scene, a flower girl arrives but loses the freshness of her plants because of the smoke.
Made in 1939, the film is also a warning to France which was on the eve of war with Fascist Germany and itself holed itself up - in isolation - until the inevitable disaster. (The Vichy government which collaborated with the Nazis forbade the showing of the film0.
As in so many of the great Marcel Carne films, the director is obsessed with doomed love. In those dark, edgy days leading up to the war, it must have seemed to Marcel Carne that happiness, while precious, is short lived - always on the verge of being snuffed out callously.
I cannot fault the pitch perfect, sad performance of Jean Gabin. Watch his eyes as he awaits his inevitable doom. Gabin - as Francois - portrays a sympathetic, bruised man. He loves an orphan perhaps because he himself was an orphan.
Of all Marcel Carne films, "Le Jour se Leve" is his most compelling metaphor for the impending disaster awaiting France. Poetic realism indeed.