Based on a novel by Gilles Perrault, this movie by Michel Drach tells about Christian Ranucci, a young salesman accused of kidnapping and murdering a little girl named Elisa Garcia. The police, upset because they had failed on the previous case, determined to succeed this time. The first hint comes from a report about a car accident near the area, in which the police gets the plate number and description of the driver. There is also a report about a car got suspiciously stuck in a dirty tunnel. The police soon arrest Ranucci, the driver. In the line-up, first hand witnesses who have seen the kidnapper, including the little girl's brother, say that Ranucci is not the man they saw. The witnesses say that the kidnapper had different hair colour, wore a red pullover, and drove a different car. The police found the red pull-over in the tunnel where Ranucci's car got stuck, but when they put it on him, it is too big. Ranucci's mother also says the pull-over is not his son's.
The police, eager to nail Ranucci, select the evidences and put aside those which do not incriminate him. The juge d'instruction, sick after seeing the body of the little girl, dislikes Ranucci the first time she sets eyes on him. Instead of listening to his confession, she wants him to admit what she thinks have been happened. They never think for a moment, that by sending Ranucci to prison they perhaps have a victory, but they let a killer loose and he perhaps might kidnap and kill other children.
The reporters, a first they perhaps doubt that Ranucci is the culpable. The case becomes popular. Who won't be disgusted by a child killer? The public all have condemned him before the trial ends. During the trial, Ranucci's hysterical manner draws away a little sympathy which is perhaps still reserved for him. His lawyers seem only defend him not with their whole heart. They send a young lawyer - who seem to have not much experience - to speak with him.
The judge doesn't hesitate to punish Ranucci with death penalty, even with the lack of evidence. Ranucci is indeed guilty in the car accident case, but is he guilty in the Elisa Garcia's case?
Ranucci refuses the pastor when he is being taken to guillotine. If he is innocent, and I believe he is [in the movie they cast another actor to play the real murderer and there are holes in the story of the main witness, a woman who claims she saw Ranucci taking a little girl to the woods after the car accident], no wonder he has lost faith in God and human, because he thinks they all have forsaken him.
I read that in France this movie was used as a vehicle to protest against death penalty. Guillotine was still used until late 70's. I myself see this as a moving story of a miscarriage of justice.