Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Detective story
In French with English subtitles
Original title: Un long dimanche de fiançailles

Since war began, armies have had to deal with the practice among soldiers of self-mutilation called malingering. Upon being wounded, the soldiers would be taken away from the front lines to a Casualty Clearing Station and given proper medical care for their “injuries”. The penalty for those found guilty of this “act of cowardice in the face of the enemy” was death. The sentence was usually carried out by a firing squad, but in the case of the French army during the First World War, those found guilty were forced to go out into No-Man's Land. This was virtually an assured death sentence.

In the first major engagement of WWI, the German army failed in their objective to force France into an early surrender. Rather than give up the territory they had won, the Germans dug in to protect themselves from the guns of the Allies. The French army mounted a counter attack but was unable to regain the lost territory. So they followed the German example and developed an elaborate system of trench lines as well. A No-Man’s Land in-between the trench lines became a wasteland of craters and blackened tree stumps. It was normally around 250 yards wide and anyone sent into No-Man’s Land had little hope of survival.

Audrey Tautou: Mathilde, orphaned young woman living in a tiny Brittany village
Gaspard Ulliel: Manech, her fiancé who gets drafted to serve in the war
Dominique Pinon: her kindly uncle Sylvain
Chantal Neuwirth: her aunt Benedicte
Ticky Holgado: Germain Pire, private detective
Jodie Foster: Polish wife of a serviceman

This is a good old-fashioned detective story set amidst the backdrop of war. Mathilde wants to find out if her fiancé is still alive following the cessation of hostilities. With flashbacks of their youth and his service in the army, it is also an historical overview of that period. Perhaps a half-hour too long, it is nevertheless an entertaining movie if you can stomach the graphic scenes of war.

for sexuality (more than a few naked sex scenes) and violence (related to the war)

One of the trenches is nicknamed Bingo Crepuscule: the literal translation, “Bingo dusk”, makes no sense to me.

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