6 user 3 critic

La sentinelle (1992)

Mathias, whose dead father was a diplomat in Germany, decides to study the forensic medicine in Paris. In the train, he has some troubles with the border police, and is insulted and ... See full summary »


Arnaud Desplechin


Arnaud Desplechin (original scenario), Pascale Ferran (adaptation) | 2 more credits »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Emmanuel Salinger Emmanuel Salinger ... Mathias Barillet
Thibault de Montalembert Thibault de Montalembert ... Jean-Jacques
Jean-Louis Richard Jean-Louis Richard ... Bleicher
Valérie Dréville Valérie Dréville ... Nathalie
Marianne Denicourt ... Marie Barillet
Jean-Luc Boutté Jean-Luc Boutté ... Varins
Bruno Todeschini ... William
Philippe Duclos ... Macaigne
Fabrice Desplechin Fabrice Desplechin ... Simon
Emmanuelle Devos ... Claude
Philippe Laudenbach ... The Priest
László Szabó ... Pamiat, the Russian (as Laszlo Szabo)
Alexis Nitzer Alexis Nitzer ... Consul
Nadine Alari ... Mme. Barillet
Jean-Pierre Ducos Jean-Pierre Ducos ... Customs Officer


Mathias, whose dead father was a diplomat in Germany, decides to study the forensic medicine in Paris. In the train, he has some troubles with the border police, and is insulted and threatened by a strange man, who disappeared quickly. Next day, he discovers in his luggage a shrunken human head. He soons becomes fascinated by it, feeling responsible (sentry of the memory of the head's owner) and starts his own investigation. What will leads him to cope with French secret services. Written by Yepok

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Release Date:

16 October 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sentinel See more »

Filming Locations:

Germany See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,176, 18 October 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$7,548, 25 October 1998
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Prelude & Allegro
by Fritz Kreisler
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User Reviews

An attempted "explication"**SPOILER**
2 August 2002 | by palmiroSee all my reviews

Here are the elements you need to make sense of this film: 1) the initial scene in which a French diplomat tells an anecdote about Yalta which reveals how the big powers "cold-heartedly" disposed of the lives of millions according to the logic of Realpolitik; 2) the character of Bleicher, whose brother fought on the side of the Germans in a French SS unit on the Russian front, was captured, and died in a POW camp in the USSR; Bleicher remains obsessed with retrieving the remains of his brother, while the French State shows little interest in the matter; 3) the characters representing the French Secret Service (Varins & William Mahe'), who were involved in a scheme to smuggle Soviet engineers out of the USSR only to sell them into a kind of techno-slavery to countries interested in their services; 4) the head of one such Soviet engineer who got into some hot water in Sumatra (by putting the head in Mathias' suitcase, Bleicher wants Mathias to embarrass French intelligence). So what you get, in political terms, is a condemnation (rather oblique, admittedly) of big-power politics. So I suppose Desplechins would have been happier if, immediately at the conclusion of WWII, the US had declared war on the Soviet Union, dropped the atom bomb on Moscow, and "liberated" the peoples of Eastern Europe. If that's the director's idea of "humanistic" politics, I'll take Realpolitik any day. One distinctive note in this film: There's not one single character here who is "sympa": not Mathias (too much of a wuss), not his Jewish classmate (captious); certainly not the villains in the French secret service; not Mathias' sister (irritatingly capricious); not the son-of-diplomat diplomat (full of conceit); not even Emmanuelle Devos as Mathias' would-be girlfriend (not worth the trouble wooing her--she fusses much too much).

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