French subscription cinema
4. Un long dimanche de fiançailles
Why study this film
After his world-wide success with Amélie Poulain, Jeunet had money thrown at him by Hollywood to make a film which would benefit from production values to transcend those of French cinema. A film covering in flashback the first world war and specifically the treatment meted out to soldiers who deliberately wounded themselves to get away from the front, it presents the horrors of war very graphically. However the main theme is the post-war quest by Mathilde a young Bretonne to find her fiancé Manech who has vanished after his spell in no-mans' land, his punishment for his self-inflicted injury. As a study of cinema techniques of many kinds this film is very interesting indeed; whether the film dwells too long on detail at the expense of a more fluid narrative could be a topic of discussion.
The interest of the film
Has Manech survived and is Mathilde right to continue her search to find him? The convoluted enquiries she carries out thanks to her ability to pay using her inheritance leads to many dramatic, improbable, even humorous situations each of which fills in part of a complex jigsaw puzzle. Her long suffering relations with whom she lives in an idyllic part of Britanny give in to Mathilde's optimism against their better will and frequent flashbacks slowly reveal how Manech might have survived. In the original book Mathilde's perambulations are represented in frequent letters but Jeunet converts more prosaic reports into much more cinematic experiences. The biggest struggle is against military authorities who are determined to close the book on an embarrassing sequence of events and in one of the most exciting moments we see Mathilde stealing documents in the most acrobatic manner possible. As entertainment the film is perhaps rather long as we are sure from the start that Manech must be alive and the ending is almost an anti-climax. Once the students have managed to get their heads round the plot and subplots there is plenty to talk about and talk about in essays.
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