A Very Long Engagement (2004)

26 May

I’ve never been able to watch Saving Private Ryan. The first sequences are so brutally honest and, well, brutal that I find it too hard to continue. So I was surprised last night that I chose to watch a movie about the Great War that clearly showed the futility and fear that were a large part of that war.

Perhaps it is that I trusted director Jean-Pierre Jeunet to breathe lightness and humility in where it made sense. And he didn’t let me down. I had been learning about WWI and it’s stark desperation. You see, troops were sent “over the top” of trenches knowing that it was more likely that they would perish than live to fight another day. In hindsight it’s easy to think that both sides were foolish to keep on sending their troops to slaughter but this was a new kind of war. There were new rules and suddenly soldiers became expendable.

A Very Long Engagement allows you to meet some of these men as they approach their date with destiny. There is gallows humor but there is also outright darkness. Jeunet does not try to paint a happy-go-lucky Amelie patina over fighters trapped in barbed wire or gunned down the moment their heads appear from the trenches.

Some of the paintings I learned about in the Art of War are faithfully reproduced here, such as men blind from mustard gas leading each other through the battlefield. We are provided with a view of the horrific surroundings men faced during this war. The premise is about five men who mutilated their hands in hopes of returning home and avoiding certain death. That alone helped me better understand why WWI was such a defining moment for Europe. Recovery from this kind of anguish isn’t brought about by eating from age, after all.

The film is beautiful, the settings amazing. I loved the story almost as much as learning about the War. If you don’t mind reap ding subtitles or watching Audrey Tautou then this is something you shouldn’t miss. Also you can stream it on Netflix so you don’t have to wait another moment for an excuse to drink red wine. Magnifique!

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One Response to “A Very Long Engagement (2004)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Paths of Glory (1957) « Trip Ahoy! - 2011/06/15

    […] I thought A Very Long Engagement did a better job of portraying the trenches, I happen to be biased.  I like French speaking French […]

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