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The 317th Platoon (1965)

La 317ème section (original title)
In Vietnam, 1954, a French platoon isolated behind enemy lines tries to come back. It is led by the inexperienced, idealistic sous-lieutenant Torrens, and by adjutant Willsdorf, a WWII veteran of the Werhmacht.
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Cast overview:
Jacques Perrin ... Le sous-lieutenant Torrens
Bruno Cremer ... L'adjudant Willsdorf
Pierre Fabre Pierre Fabre ... Le sergent Roudier
Manuel Zarzo ... Le caporal Perrin
Boramy Tioulong Boramy Tioulong ... Le sergent supplétif Ba Kut


In 1954, the Indochina War begins to come to a close following France's defeat by the Viet Minh at the deadly Battle of Dîen Bîen Phû. French forces are in full retreat and risk being overrun at every turn -- including the 317th Platoon, a unit of French soldiers and Laotian allies who are led by the idealistic but inexperienced sous-lieutenant Torrens and adjutant Willsdorf, a former soldier in the German Wehrmacht during WWII. Their survival depends on completing a trek through the dense, jungle-laden, expanse of enemy territory that stands between them and the safety of the nearest French outpost. Written by Dr. Jay Trotter

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Did You Know?


About 30 minutes into the film, part of Macbeth Act 5, Scene 1 (the Lady Macbeth "out, out damned spot" sleep-walking scene) is overheard playing on the radio. See more »


Referenced in Le Crabe-Tambour (1977) See more »

User Reviews

Song for the lost

La 317ème section is a movie about a French/anti-communist platoon that gets separated whilst up country during the Vietminh offensive against Dien Bien Phu.

The movie's two main advantages are that the director was an ex-combatant in that war, and Raoul Coutard, who was one of the great New Wave cinematographers.

The story concerns a green lieutenant, Torrens, thirsty for battle, brave and intelligent, though seemingly an adventurer from another century, and his seasoned adjutant Willsdorf, Alsatian Wehrmacht veteran. Many other films have used this formula, a classic principal-agent problem that genuinely occurs in conflicts, but used it as a metaphor for classism, and exaggerated matters.

If you look at Hollywood treatments of either the Korean War or the Vietnam War, particularly around this era, you genuinely see that there is absolutely no understanding of the naturalised inhabitants of the country. Even where there is good will, these productions remain opaque. Willsdorf however genuinely seems to have a feel for the people and how they live. He senses a more poetical way of living, which he respects, but which is clearly ripe for exploitation. There's a piece of dialogue where he mentions how the trees of the forest will soon turn red for Autumn, and that when they do the locals will drink, dance, make love and celebrate, and you sense part of him wants to join with that, wants to find a nook in a river bend where he can set up house.

What these individuals are though, as literally shown in the opening credits, are soldier ants in the forest, their lives are expendable. They are men who live in a man's world without the comforts of home, and take their pleasures where they may, they can only hope to do their duty and lay down and die, and may as well embrace what they do and who they are. It's not a "war is madness" movie, but it is terribly sad, and I was just sorry for Willsdorf that he wasn't sipping a nice Riesling back home after tucking his children into bed. It seems that by being totally apolitical the film manages to leave room for you to come to the conclusion that imperialism is deeply aberrant.

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France | Spain


French | Vietnamese

Release Date:

31 March 1965 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

317th Platoon See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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