Selasa, 19 April 2011

Jean Dewever - Les honneurs de la guerre AKA The Honors of War (1961)

August 1944. A company of German troops has managed to reclaim the French provincial town of Nanteuil shortly after its liberation, but a few locals resist, taking pot-shots at the soldiers from the sanctuary of a bell tower. Tired and leaderless, the German soldiers decide to admit defeat. They send a hostage to take a message to a nearby French village to arrange a surrender. The French villagers return to their town, celebrating a wedding on the way. Meanwhile, a German officer has arrived in the town and informs his soldiers that they must not give in...

Les Honneurs de la guerre is a little known war film which, despite being made on a modest budget, delivers an extremely powerful anti-war statement. The supreme folly of war and the ease with which civilised human beings can, through a combination of fear, distrust and desire for revenge, succumb to the evil impulse for blood lust are illustrated with devastating effect in this remarkable debut feature from director Jean Dewever, one of the lesser known figures of the French New Wave.

The film begins with a haunting shot of an apparently deserted French town, panning down empty streets strewn with banners. The only inhabitants of the town are the remnants of a German army, young soldiers, most barely into their 20s, many wounded, hungry and humiliated. All they can do is wait for the Americans to re-appear and capture them. In the mean time they nurse their wounds and half-heartedly fend off a few determined snipers. A few kilometres away, French villagers are celebrating a marriage, enjoying the late summer sunshine, dancing, eating and singing. Life has never seemed so beautiful now that the horror of war is over. Or so they think. The last thing that either side, the French villagers or the German soldiers, wants is to resume hostilities. Yet a mutual fear and distrust draws them inexorably towards that terrible outcome. War is never so horrible and absurd when it is placed alongside the alternative, a delicious yet clearly ephemeral peace.

One of the reasons why this film is so effective is that it avoids taking sides and presents both the Germans and the French (who are destined to end up slaughtering each other) with equal compassion and humanity. The film resembles a documentary in that the dialogue and the action appear unscripted, spontaneous and natural. Needless-to-say, the film was highly regarded by Dewever’s contemporaries, including critic-turned-filmmaker François Truffaut, although it was far from being a commercial success. Half a century on Les Honneurs de la guerre still offers a potent and shocking reminder of mankind’s flair for mindless self-destruction.

894.9 MB
French/german only. No english subs
no pass

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