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The famous "Dreyfus Case" where a Jewish captain in the French Army is falsely accused of treason. He is sentenced to imprisonment on Devil's Island. When the real traitor is found the French Army tries to hide the truth. Written by
Steve Crook <email@example.com>
Around the time that Alfred Dreyfus was going through his trials and tribulations there was a young kid who dreamed of a military career to serve his country. Later on when Charles DeGaulle made that fateful decision to go into exile and raise an army to free his beloved France he remarked without a trace of arrogance that 'in me you see the honor of France'. DeGaulle was not a modest man, but I quote him because it happens to be literally true. That was his importance to France more than any military contribution the Free French made to the Allied cause.
In I Accuse another story of a man in whom the honor of France resided, but who took it up rather unwillingly. In fact Alfred Dreyfus was accused of treason, not because the evidence was against him, but because of a raging anti-Semitism that permeated the upper classes of France in those years between the Franco-Prussian War and World War I. Dreyfus was a Jew who fought prejudice to gain that coveted position on the general staff of the Army of France. But when evidence of some espionage emerged, that classified documents were being sent to her enemies, it was easy and convenient to blame the Jew. And when facts emerged to the contrary facts be damned. In fact Dreyfus for over a decade suffered the fate of the damned on Devil's Island.
I Accuse is an almost perfect retelling of the Dreyfus affair which stars Jose Ferrer as Dreyfus. Ferrer also directed a perfectly cast film of mostly British players. You truly believe you are watching history unfold as his accusers do their utmost to bury Ferrer's body and soul on Devil's Island. Equally though Dreyfus over the years slowly gathered his supporters like novelist Emile Zola and editor Georges Clemenceau played here by Emlyn Williams and Peter Illing.
Above all there is Jose Ferrer one of the greatest players of the last century. Ferrer really lets it all hang out with Dreyfus as we see him in every aspect of his character, military man, family man, and above all a symbol for justice and truth. Sadly this film is neglected because of Paul Muni's film The Life Of Emile Zola which concentrated mostly on Zola's involvement in the Dreyfus case and for which Joseph Schildkraut won a Best Supporting Actor for playing Dreyfus.
Running close to Ferrer is Anton Walbrook playing Count Esterhazy who actually did the espionage. You will not forget Walbrook as the smooth talking unrepentant scoundrel who actually is protected by the French Army high command because they have such a vested interest in anti-Semitism.
The honor of France took a real beating in the Dreyfus Case, but it did emerge. I Accuse is a great film that should receive far more acclaim than it has. In many ways it's superior to Jose Ferrer's Oscar winning performance in Cyrano De Bergerac.
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