France, 1936-37. The Popular Front wins elections, the Spanish Civil War begins, and Hitler and Stalin are manipulating and spying. The brilliant exile, Fiodor Voronin, a general at 20, is ...
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France, 1936-37. The Popular Front wins elections, the Spanish Civil War begins, and Hitler and Stalin are manipulating and spying. The brilliant exile, Fiodor Voronin, a general at 20, is the deputy at the White Russian Military Union, probably slated to replace the aging Général Dobrinsky soon. Fiodor's Greek wife, Arsinoé, paints and stays away from politics, befriending Communist neighbors. Her health declines; the attentive Fiodor arranges care and, against the backdrop of Stalin's Great Purge, considers his options. He plays a chess game in which love of country, love of Arsinoé, ideology, petty jealousies, and the machinations of power roil in matters of life and death.Written by
Éric Rohmer had originally intended to use a style similar to that of his previous film, The Lady and the Duke (2001), with archive footage in lieu of traditional backgrounds. This proved to be impossible due to the quality of the available footage. See more »
This film takes you to another world, the uncertain times between the two World Wars, though no one at the time knew it. It concerns White Russians living in France, and uncertain which way they should jump if there was another war.
Do they team up with Germany, their enemy from the Great War, and now much further from their own ideas, run by vulgar Nazis rather than a right-wing elite close to their own view? Or do they keep their heads down and hope to avoid upsetting France's Popular Front government, which does not like them? How do they react to the Spanish Civil War?
There are also surviving links with Red Russia, especially with Tukhachevsky, from a similar social background but the Red Army's top commander.
The real-life basis concerns General Evgenii Miller (Dobrinsky) and General Nikolai Skoblin (Fiodor). I'll not say more, to avoid spoilers. Just that the film does not give a definite solution to the mystery, though it points to one. You can find one account on the Wikipedia. On the DVD you find Skoblin's niece giving a very different interpretation.
Despite unresolved mysteries, and some liberties taken with solid fact, I found this a very watchable film.
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