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It's mid 19th century, north of France. The story of a coal miner's town. They are exploited by the mine's owner. One day the decide to go on strike, and then the authorities repress them Written by
Michel Rudoy <email@example.com>
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Tackling a book such as Germinal is a mammoth task - and one that I always thought was extremely difficult to transfer onto the big screen.
There are two ways you can do it, keep it simple or explore everything and bore the audience to death. You can see here that the director has decided to keep the story as simple and straightforward as possible.
This means there are a few gaping holes in the film, as it ignores some of the intricacies of the story and many of the sub-plots which punctuate the story and add to the feel of the book.
In one sense he succeeds, as the tempo of the film is high and it rattles along at a fair pace, not reading like a 2 and a half hour story.
But the major drawback of this tactic is that Germinal ends up looking like a simplistic noble workers versus the greedy bosses story, when the novel is anything but that.
Scorn is poured on both sides with equal contempt by Zola, and plenty of sympathy is given to some of the "wealthy" protaganists in the book.
Having said this, I do understand that in order to keep the film from turning into a 4 hour behemoth, you need to try and keep it as simple as possible.
On the whole, however, it is pretty well acted and the art direction is utterly breathtaking. The villages, the pits, the landscapes, the mines are fabulously shot. You really can feel the poverty oozing from every inch of the screen.
Gerard Depardieu (Maheu) and Renaud (Ettiene) put in some pretty convincing turns but feel that Jean-Roger Milo rather over-egged Chaval, turning him into some pseudo incredible hulk type character who is incapable of speaking normally. Judith Henry also seems a little to young and fresh faced to play Catherine.
I think I let my interpretation of the book cloud my judgement, and as a result I was disappointed because I expected more from the film than I should have.
Rating: 3 out of 5
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