Suppose a guy would say : "I am going to make a movie about the Vendée insurrection." And has no further exact idea of a plot. "Vent de Galerne" is probably not far from what you would get.
In 1793-1796, a bunch of people in Vendée (Center-West in France) decided they would not support the French Revolution and would fight the Republicans. Apparently, it was a terrible civil war, with 400,000 casualties. Great subject for a movie.
But here, you don't really have a hint of the historic scope of the war. You only see a couple parishes being subdued by the Republican troops in a few days, not a whole region occupying its main cities during three years. And about the motivations of the different groups, you know no more. Why did the Lord of the place accept to command the peasant troops? It's obvious when you know the historical context, but as weird as it may seem, that point is not clearly made in the movie. As for the motivations of the people, it looks like they are spilling their own blood by fighting against their fellow countrymen only because they don't want to make war at the frontiers.
Granted, showing the full scope of the conflict is not a must in this type of movie, but then, you need a plot. To be honest, there is some sort of a love story, but no romance. Courage, but no heroism. Dialogs are poor; Jean-François Casabonne is not convincing as the main character (André Bluteau, Marie's lover and the blacksmith leader of the insurrection in his village).
The best element in the film is how it manages to convey an interesting portrait of society in France just after the Revolution : the interrelations between the working class, the business class, the noble class, the clergy and the Republican Army. Also, it recalls how wild men can turn out to be during a war, and particularly in that place and time of world history. Finally the technical aspect is o.k. (shooting, lighting, landscapes) and the setting is convincing (costumes, places, etc.).
A 5 out of 10. For a good story about Vendée - this time with an excellent plot - read "Les Chouans" by Balzac. For a much better movie about that episode in the History of France, go for "La Révolution française" by Robert Enrico.
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