Sisif, a railwayman, and his son Elie fall in love with the beautiful Norma (who Sisif rescued from a train crash when a baby and raised as his daughter), with tragic results. Originally ... See full summary »
Gabriel de Gravone
A gripping and shocking documentary composed of numerous colorized archive footage. Apocalypse: Verdun takes us to the infamous and bloody battle of Verdun that occurred in February 1916, when World War I had been raging for two years.
According to the director, Léon Poirier, the entire cast and crew of the film were made up of Great War veterans. The only exceptions being female actresses, as Suzanne Bianchetti and Jeanne Marie-Laurent, and older actors such as André Nox and Maurice Schutz. Antonin Artaud also wasn't a veteran. See more »
"Verdun, visions d'histoire" is a dramatised account of the key World War I battle in which French troops, fighting alone and often in desperate hand-to-hand combat, had to halt the German advance at all costs. The film uses newsreel footage, Poirier's own highly realistic reconstructions of the conflict (by far the largest element of the film) and some little dramatic scenes which are fairly perfunctory compared to "The Big Parade", say, but which nevertheless add a thread of personal interest to the events. The film is told from both sides and is surprisingly sympathetic to the German point of view, considering when it was made. Poirier's pacifist stance is revealed in several moments, notably in one scene when two angels descend onto the battlefield and extract the souls of two soldiers, one German and one French, and place them together on a stretcher which they carry up to heaven.
The re-enacted battle sequences, for which Poirier used original locations and even some of the surviving combatants, place the viewer in the midst of the horror, crawling across no-man's-land, cowering in fox-holes, or being blown apart in trenches. In fact, when you watch documentary programmes with "historical" footage of trench warfare, chances are it came from this film, made 10 years after the battle. (Most actual newsreel footage of the time shows lines of smiling troops marching off to battle but avoids depicting the carnage of war, for obvious propaganda reasons.)
In 1931, a re-edited sound version, "Verdun, souvenirs d'histoire" was released with some re-shot scenes using different actors. A restoration of the best existing print of the original silent version (stolen from France by the Nazis, then grabbed by the Russians at the end of the war) has recently been issued in an English-friendly French DVD edition.
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