The Officer's Ward (2001) Poster

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Chamber Of Horrors
writers_reign25 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
World War One has been enjoying something of a vogue recently and not least in French Cinema, which on balance is currently the best in the world. Only a couple of years ago we had the superb Les Ames Grises and a couple of years before that Francois Dupeyron adapted a best-selling novel into this wonderful movie. Following a brief scene-setting sequence in which the leading man, Eric Caravaca, is shown to be flawed, he is badly wounded whilst on a recce to find a suitable spot to build a bridge. The ordinariness of this - as opposed to wounds sustained in actual combat - serves to accentuate his terrible facial injuries which are so bad that for the next hour of screen time we see only the reactions of others rather than a head-on shot of his face. The pace is slow, stately even and none the worse for that although they'll give it short shrift in the Multiplexes, and Dupeyron succeeds in drawing us in to this singular world where eventually Caravaca is joined by three other officers with similar wounds. The acting is beyond praise but then so it should be with actors of the caliber of Sabine Azema, Andre Dussollier, Denis Podalydes and relative newcomer Gregoire Derangere who has since done sterling work in Bon Voyage, L'Equippier and Le Passagere d'Ete. As anti-war statements go this belongs right alongside La Grande Illusion, Paths Of Glory, All Quiet On The Western Front, in other words, amongst the cream.
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utterly compelling
chrissoda10010 March 2003
The Officer's Ward is compelling insight into the horrors of The Great War which will have you rivetted to the screen.

Eric Caravaca is the engineer in the French army who's face is badly disfigured by a bomb blast at the outset of the First World War.

Destined to spend the rest of the war in a Paris hospital where doctors attempt to reconstruct his face, the film focuses on his thoughts, experiences, relationships with other patients in a similar situation, and his struggle for acceptance by his family and society.

Where in the wrong hands the film could have ended up a soppy and sentimental mess, Francois Dupeyron handles proceedings with sensitivity, dignity, and not does not rely on the initial extent of his injuries for shock value. We don't see his face for nearly an hour into the film, so the only indication as to the extent of his injuries is from the reactions of the hospital staff.

Good performances all round, and a stirring condemnation of warfare, and salute to the power of the human spirit

8 out of 10
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An oustanding French literary adaptation
jandesimpson9 November 2003
Having found so much recent French cinema disappointing, I am always pleased to record the discovery of something really fine. Although "The Officers' Ward" belongs to the category of lengthy literary adaptaions, it is infinitely better than examples such as "Germinal", "Les Destinees Sentimentales" or the much hyped Pagnol films which I found particularly over-rated. An anti-war film dealing with facial disfigurement incurred in time of conflict, it chronicles one man's pain and his long period of adjustment to the way he physically presents to the world. In a sense his wound is inflicted not so much by being engaged in battle (he is on a reconnaissance sortie) but by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other irony is that in the few scenes when we get to know the officer, Adrien, before his injury, he is presented in a none too sympathetic way as a rather boorish and selfish womaniser. In a way his disfigurement offers him a chance of redemption and it is his journey towards this state that gives the film its considerable power. Not that the end result is perfect: there is rather too much concentration on peripheral detail. What is in essence a chamber film is too often broadened out to encompass for example the grand sweep of the journey of the injured from the field to the hospital or to comment on the social injustice of the special treatment of the officer class compared with the rank-and-file. Perhaps too much concentration on conveying atmosphere, however beautifully done, detracts from what in the hands of a director as austere as Bresson for instance would have been an undoubted masterpiece. Nevertheless there is sufficient in Francois Dupeyron's work to assure it a place among the "top ten" of its year, the skill for instance with which the director only allows us imagine what Adrien must look like by observing the reactions on the faces of those who see him, so that by the time half-way through that we are actually given a glimpse we know exactly what to expect as we did in the case of "The Elephant Man". That and two wonderfully moving scenes, one where the three disfigured patients in the officers' ward, who until then have suffered in their own private worlds, suddenly become aware of each other and another where Adrien on his release into the the outside world manages to transform a little girl's fear at his appearance into something approaching fun by making their encounter in a train into a game. In moments such as these the film touches greatness.
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Quite a tearjerker!
hesketh274 October 2002
This is an intensely moving film which tells the story of a young soldier whose face is terribly disfigured during WW1. In hospital, he meets and befriends several other individuals who have suffered the same fate and the film concentrates on the way that they each come to terms with their situation. The first 40 minutes or so is very slow, so if you start to watch it, please don't be put off... stick with it, the rewards are there. Anyone who is not moved by this must have a heart of stone, since the performances are first rate at every level and there are many touching moments throughout the film. You might think that the subject matter is somewhat depressing and indeed, at some points, it is. However, what comes out is that the strength of the human spirit can carry individuals through the most horrendous experiences and as the film reaches its conclusion, it is ultimately uplifting. Any person who appreciates films of high quality will thoroughly enjoy this.
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Fabulous, Moving and historical, questions importance of appearance
StephaneD11 October 2001
Beautiful film, after a difficult (almost unbearable) first half hour in WWI Parisian hospital. Beautiful costumes and settings, great acting...very touching at times.

Really modern with its theme around the physical appearance and the way we accept ourselves and the other's look.

A great tribute to the "gueules cassées" (broken faces) of the World War I.

I rank it among the David Lynch's "Elephant Man", or Van Dormael "the eighth day", both festival winners. No less... 9/10
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Deeply Moving
AndrewPhillips21 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a deeply moving film, I tend to like what's war about themes and this one is handled well. It follows the story of a French officer who is injured as soon as he gets to the front in the first world war. We then follow his journey to hospital and the painful time there having his face reconstructed.

The story works on many levels, we have the personal trials of the patient's, fears of rejection from loved ones, rejection of themselves, captured so well in the lead up to the scene where one of the officers tries to kill himself. We see the divide between class, so prevalent at that time in history, best shown by contrast between the relative calm of the officers ward and the general ward where all the other soldiers are. We learn to understand the futility of war, as more and more men are brought into the hospital.

The performances are all first class, the bigger scenes are captured with strong photography and the intimate ones with a compassion and beauty. There is humour, as the men start to recover and they are able to interact with each other more, the trip to the brothel and meeting the female patient at the top of the hospital. All adding to the depth of the story we are being told.

For all the depth I found it a simple, uncomplicated story and for that all the more powerful. With all the re makes of foreign films into English this is one project that, if handled correctly would be a great showcase for any studio, and would I am sure have Oscar written all over it.
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Adrien got his gun....and became John Merrick.
dbdumonteil11 November 2004
Based upon a true story which reportedly happened to the novelist's ancestor, "la chambre des officiers" is a strong manifesto against war.The first third of the movie (before Adrien leaves his bed) strongly recalls Dalton Trumbo's masterpiece "Johnny got his gun" but with a weaker direction.The voice over ,the nurse and the visit of the secretary,not to mention the "dream" about the deer ,everything reminds me of "Johnny ..." (1971).But the movie hits its stride afterward ,and,despite of overlong sequences ,grabs the audience till the end when two wonderful sequences (the one with the little girl in the metro (=subway),then the last sequence with the woman who repeats "you're no monster")preserve the viewer from despair.

Whereas war movies have often displayed maimed soldiers,they have rarely (if they have)shown disfigured fighters.In the hospital ,we catch glimpses of the outside world only from the windows;"From a distance,one of the unfortunate victims says ,we all look the same".And when the war's over,the 11th of November 1918,the hero is the only one who does not rejoice.Because His war is not over:it has only begun.And these last sequences ,as I said above, are the most poignant of the entire movie.

"La chambre des officiers" was first a best-seller;it was written by an engineer who had never published anything before.
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Very moving film
Lou12314 November 2002
This could have been an easy soppy boring film, but it's not, absolutely not ! It's a film full of humanity, of hope, love, and confidence in life. Of course, many scenes are tragic, unbearable but those "broken faces" can also make us laugh and believe in life... It's also a very interesting historical testimony of those hidden victims of the 1st World War... and though the film never enter into political debates, it's a real plea for peace. A great great film !
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Grisly but gripping
phiggins27 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoiler warning. Sometimes a film comes along, seemingly out of nowhere, that knocks you for six and makes you see the world with new eyes. No, I'm not talking about "Breakdance II: Electric Boogaloo", I'm talking about "The Officer's Ward". This strange, painful, but ultimately uplifting film is unlike anything I've ever seen. Anti-war, yes, but just as importantly pro-life, it leaves you drained and exhilarated, confident that you have witnessed a seriously excellent piece of work. Centred on the experiences of war "hero" Adrien (in reality he has done nothing heroic - his injuries were sustained while he was looking at a possible location for building a bridge) who suffers appalling facial injuries and ends up in the eponymous ward, the film makes its points in an admirably subtle fashion: the Officer's ward is at first practically empty, while the foot soldiers downstairs are crammed in, in awful conditions, for example. The characters' dilemmas are believable and heartbreaking. The nurse, Anais, under whose unblinking gaze the Officers slowly recover, is a wonderful creation, showing amazing strength and passing that strength on to her patients. There aren't many laughs here, but when they come they are a welcome release from the otherwise grim proceedings. The reactions of the rest of the world to these painfully damaged faces are terrible to watch. One woman's brother asks simply, "Are you going to stay like that?" and turns away. Adrien manages, somehow, to smile through the horror and make a life on the outside, post-war world. Ironies pile up inexorably: as war ends our hero is informed of his best friend's death, Adrien stops a man committing suicide when earlier he had tried to do the same thing himself. It's that kind of film - staggering, simple, overwhelming. It's life affirming message is, despite terrible circumstances and events, the human spirit is indomitable.
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pulp15027 December 2003
'How Can You Live With Yourself When You Cannot Look At Yourself...' This is a superb film. It makes me sad and angry. This is one of the great classic anti war movies. When you like Al quiet on the western front, Gallipoli and La vie et rien d'autre you most definitely should see this film!!! Beautiful cinematography, lighting, camera, great acting and story / script. The director (François Dupeyron) made a moving picture. I hadn't seen a movie about world war I victims that have disfigured faces. But I read books about it. The look of Frankensteins monster is based upon these

men. The horror of this world war has had is effect on not only film, but art and daily life as well. This was the first war with weapons of mass destruction,

revolutionary weapons. But medicine and surgery advanced as well. So this war has created living monsters. This movie shows how these monsters survived

during and after the war.

SUPERB FILM!!! I rated 9.
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natashabowiepinky30 May 2013
Aside from being cheese eating surrender monkeys, I'm starting to think the French make some of the best films around. This is a searingly honest, devastatingly unflinching look at young men coping with life changing facial injuries during the early 20th century while at war. There's no mollycoddling here... everyone thinks these once handsome guys now look like freaks, and even most of their former friends and family want nothing to with them. Lacking in self-confidence due to their appearances, the hospital for them is their prison, and they entertain thoughts of self-harm and suicide daily. Their only company is a few sympathetic nurses and a doctor who's bedside manner consists of a few unhelpful platitudes. Life for them will never be the same again, but worse than their respective mutilations may be the despair...

Not a foot is put wrong, not a single minute is wasted in this brilliant drama, as our lead, who is scarred by an explosion on the battlefield, must learn to adapt to a new life as well as people's perceptions of him. Without a jawbone he can't even speak, and is forced to write everything down with a piece of chalk on a blackboard. Him and his fellow patients survive on games of cards and gallows humour, while stuck in this dingy building. It's powerful stuff, and I was transfixed throughout at the plight of all the characters, on whom I must say the make up was fantastic... You'd almost believe it was a documentary. But of course it couldn't be... you can't film in colour something that took place 100 years ago. DUH. Anyway, this is a work of art I'll remember for a long time, and I'd advise ALL of you to see it. You ALL won't, though. Your loss.... 9/10
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ugly face of war.... heartless and ungrateful people.
afterdarkpak6 August 2020
Somehow really good performance , good quality production for french cinema . direction needs more skills, some scenes are way to dark and unfocused.

a man suddenly fall in love? with unfaithful married woman who see off her husband to war and same night she slept with another guy. pffff. then same man got badly injured while patrolling and sent to hospital where most film happen, he has only one reason to live, to see the love of his life (that unfaithful french thot).

movie has good ending with some good lesson. the world is a cruel place and people are animals , they dont care. and they wont accept when you have an ugly life. BUT not all, there is still a HOPE.


after that man put himself thought alot pain n courage, in the end when he found out that his lover wont even recognise him , he felt dead, i thought he will go suicide but he didn't give up easily. the hope , he found when some pretty woman told him that he Doesn't look like monster. good end.

there is no happy life with a unfaithful woman. ever.
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Oh dear...another French wartime romance...
wot_have_i_done_now7 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Hmmm, a thrilling tale indeed, if one likes to be bored by the seemingly endless sentimental drivel spouted all to frequently in this dramatised version of a much better book, at least I hope so, the fact that the film advances its plot at such a sluggish rate, lets say a major plot milestone every hour? This film seems once again to run along a war intertwined with another clichéd love story - we've seen it all before - get a relatively believable plot!! Not all of the war was Frenchies getting sexed, then being badly wounded, and spending the rest of the war in a comfy hospital!! If we want a believable WWI film, we should be looking to Flags of our Fathers/Letters From Iwo Jima, or Saving Private Ryan for inspiration about how to structure a good film on such a topic!! Myself, I would like to see someone at least attempt to try and create a proper First World War film, with calibre and quality!!

One thing I noticed when I saw this film, which, may I add, was not my choice, is that the main star, who is probably a wonderful chap, but he does no real acting. All he does in the first hour or so is:

1) Wave at people on a train. 2) Try to get on a train. 3) Have sex. 4) Ride a horse for about fifteen seconds. 5) Lay on a bed in a van, with blood dripping into his hands. 6) Wake up in hospital with bandages on his head. 7) When he actually seems to be pulling through, all he can say is 'Neuurrrgh..'. 8) He then starts to do a bit of walking around the hospital, with his non'existent nose in a sling. 9) Says 'Go away' to his friend, twice. 10) Goes to a brothel.

By the way, I only ticked the spoiler thing, so I wouldn't get blacklisted =]
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# 04 : Without snow nor fire (vhs)
lamegabyte3 June 2019
Géraldine goes to war again: this time it's the WWI and the movie is pretty bad: first of all, it's shot in Sepia and it's just awful! It's not because old pictures turned yellow that this past world must be seen that way (or in black and white either)! Then, i'm a bit shocked by this loose Geraldine, who spent a night with this soldier as soon as she left another on a train for the war zone! At the end, she appears for 6 minutes but she was cute in this old fashion! Except for her appearance, the movie is totally depressive as it's a Darkman getting rehabilitated in a hospital room: any fans ???
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