The Dordogne, 1869. Pierre Naboulet, a poor tenant farmer, has drawn a lucky number in the French Army draft lottery. He will be exempt from a five-year period of military service. But he ... See full summary »
The Dordogne, 1869. Pierre Naboulet, a poor tenant farmer, has drawn a lucky number in the French Army draft lottery. He will be exempt from a five-year period of military service. But he sells his number to Florent, a rich merchant, and takes the place of Florent's son, Arnaud, who has been drafted. Woodcutting with his brother, Pierre leaves his axe in a tree to await his return home. He spends his last night in the barn with his redheaded sweetheart, Henriette... Emperor Napoleon III declares war on Prussia, and the Prussians invade. In Alsace, Pierre's regiment fights the invaders in a forest. Many French are killed; Pierre escapes, wounded. He finds a cottage. Inside a boy is hiding. The redheaded boy speaks only the Alsatian dialect of German... Written by
I do not think that this movie is the only one dealing with the 1870 war ."Boule De Suif" ,for instance ,which was the subject of many movies ,particularly Christian-Jaque's ,depicted the adventures of a group lost in what Emile Zola called "La Débâcle" .And the same Christian-Jaque made a movie about the Red Cross ("D'Homme A Hommes" )in which many scenes depicted the conflict (the Prussians before Paris). But this war which was one of Emperor Napoleon the Third's last and biggest mistake was lost and French directors were not ready to film such a demeaning subject.
"Champ D'Honneur" ,made in 1987,was not unlike " Histoire Du Caporal" ,which took place in WW1.But whereas the latter showed a peasant boy's rebellion ,"Champ D'Honneur " showed the peasant as they were: people to whom ,because the earth was theirs,duty was sacred and fighting was an honor.All the scenes that take place in the village ring true :see how the rich kid is despised ("he 's got a lot of nerve to come ...").It's true that a conscript who drew a "bad " number could be replaced ,provided he paid for a substitute;this situation went on till the beginning of the twentieth century and of course was not allowed anymore in WW1.One should never praise enough the director for the use of patois ,of Alsatian -which is closer to German than to French- which resulted in subtitles for 50% of the movie.
But the soldier-and-young-boy story only recycles clichés .The young child facing the war subject was much better applied on earlier works such as Robert Enrico's "Au Coeur De La Vie" (1963) .However ,the end of the movie shows cruelty to children as few directors dare.
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