The precedent user did not like the movie because he is an aviation buff.If you are looking for this kind of film ,you must move on.
It's closer to psychological drama ;in spite of the unquestionable talent of the lead (Lambert Wilson) and the quality of the supporting cast (Jean-Louis Trintignant,his late daughter Marie in a small part,Daniel Auteuil ,Helene Vincent),it does not really convince ;the script is not tight enough and the lines lack emotion ,particularly the hero's frames of mind told in the letters he send to his mother who read them (voice over).
Henry is stifling in his wealthy bourgeois milieu;it's 1914,and we can feel the Union Sacrée (united front presented by the French against the enemy in 1914) in the scene when ,Learning that the war is declared,the characters break into "La Marseillaise".This unity began to deteriorate in 1917,but at the beginning of the war,many French thought the war would be short and they would take over the Alsace and the Lorraine . Those who were not drafted ,enlisted en masse.
Such is henry's case.But he was declared unfit for service (on health grounds :TB)and it was a supreme humiliation ,considering the zeitgeist. So he decided he would be a fight pilot .He is so brilliant an aviator that he's finally enlisted in the Air force.
Henry wanted to be the best of the best .Unfortunately,He is too good for his own good.Unlike the other pilots,he does not go to the brothels when he is on furlough and his mates laugh at him and call him names ("he must be a catholic virgin lad")His Superior too thinks it's better to let well alone and that he demoralizes his squadron:the others do not want to fly with him because "he brings bad luck"
Hence the title :"instinct of the angel" ;but angel of death to some. Henry lives in another world,even in another era ,which may explain the "duel" ,which in 1914 was already becoming a thing of the past(although it was not yet forbidden:for the record ,in France the last duel took place in 1967!)
The final duel is impressive ,but you do not really see the tempers rise ;this grandiose finale looks like it has just been tacked onto the rest of the film .This ambitious subject needed a more ambitious director.
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