A French village and its inhabitants go through the ups and (mainly) downs of the occupation by the German army from 1940 to 1945. The village doctor is assigned as mayor, and confronted ...
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A French village and its inhabitants go through the ups and (mainly) downs of the occupation by the German army from 1940 to 1945. The village doctor is assigned as mayor, and confronted with the challenges, dilemmas and contradictory demands and situations. At the same time, there is a lot of personal interaction with a number of interesting characters.Written by
This is a truly remarkable, riveting, and even addictive TV series, certainly one of the best I have ever seen, regardless of language. (I'm 64. I've seen a lot of TV series.) What makes it remarkable? The acting is uniformly first-rate, the direction very good, the script even better than first-rate. Each episode holds you from the get-go, and many end with cliff-hangers that make you want to start the next episode. As I said, it is downright addicting.
Are there any flaws? I don't know that I would call them flaws, but I can see that those interested in the history of the Occupation in France could have several issues with the series.
1) A previous reviewer wrote that it is an "Excellent TV show explaining the life of ordinary people in Nazi occupied France." Not really true. The main French characters are almost all members of the haute bourgeoisie: a leading doctor, a factory manager, the chief of police, etc. They do not deal with the issues that friends of mine remember from the Occupation: the shortage of everything, starting with food and fuel to heat homes. For ordinary French people, the Occupation was four years of waiting in line every day for bare necessities, punctuated by an occasional dramatic event. That wouldn't make for good TV drama, though, so this series has made the dramatic more "common" than it evidently was in the life of the average French person. The episodes almost all focus on dramatic events. It makes for riveting viewing, certainly, but it gives a skewed view of daily life during the Occupation.
2) Much of the focus is on sex and marital infidelity, rather than issues specific to the Occupation. (It reminds me a lot of Zola's Germninal in that sense.) This holds audiences, certainly, but there is nothing particularly related to the Occupation here. Almost all the wives turn out to be unfaithful to their husbands. I'm not sure how a feminist would react to that, or indeed many French women, faithful to their husbands or boyfriends, who lived through the era.
3) The depiction of the Communist Party leaders is uniformly negative. Again, the focus seems to be very bourgeois, very much Gaulliste. I noticed, for example, that when others, even Gaullistes like Bériot, refer to the Communists as Bolsheviks, that just gets translated as Communist. There is, of course, a big difference there. It is very true that many non-Communists feared the Communist Resistance and feared that their goal was to lead France into another class war/revolution, but that was not in fact the goal of all the FTP/Communist resistants.
All that said, I repeat that this is a riveting series. You will not regret watching it - except that you may well become addicted to it.
I have now watched through the end of Season 6, which is as far as the American distribution has gone as of January 2017. (Season 7 is announced for mid-February.) All I have to add to what I wrote above is that this series does a remarkable job of making all the lead characters, no matter what their political position, very human and very three-dimensional. No one is all bad, and virtually no one is all good. That becomes very problematic for me in the case of the Militiamen and some of the Germans, the SS and the Gestapo. I don't like feeling sympathy or compassion for individuals who have committed monstrous crimes, as some of these characters do. Nevertheless, I will concede that even someone who can shoot two little children in cold blood - that is a VERY difficult scene to watch - might also have human qualities. I don't like conceding that, but I will.
The end of episode 12 of Season 6 turned my blood cold. It focused on some of the worst events of the Liberation, and made it anything but a joyous event. I know, having interviewed people who lived in a small town in France at that time, that what is described did indeed take place across France. Some of it is even toned down, like the shearing of the women accused of collaboration with the Germans. Still, it is a particularly somber note on which to end the penultimate season.
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