Suite Francaise (2014)
“This German is our enemy. Do you understand?
Occasionally my lovely, sweet wife (yep, she regularly reads my reviews) gets the privilege to choose a movie. Usually this is accompanied by a blistering reproach that I always get it my way. I always think of her when choosing a movie and usually it’s an acceptable one. She tends to forget that. I usually look those gore and scarier flicks in the middle of the night on my own, so I’m saved from a wife who awakes in a panic while planting her sharp nails into my shoulders. Hence I braced myself for a romantic war drama and expected it to be a wilted station novel. Ultimately, it wasn’t so bad. The romantic rumble was limited and there was more attention for the mutual relations between the richer and poorer population in the village of Bussy and the vicissitudes of a fugitive, crippled farmer.
Besides, I must admit that I have a weak spot for WWII movies. I readily admit that those were the dark pages in the history of Europe, but those developments in these years were a fertile ground for a whole range of excellent war films. The fact that Matthias Schoenaerts also succeeded in getting the leading role here, was another reason for me to give this movie a chance. Let’s say chauvinism raised its head and as a Belgian I’m proud to see how this fellow countryman has worked his way into the club of the better international actors (sorry Muscles from Brussels, but you just didn’t get in that club)
Surprisingly, I didn’t suffer from aching jaws because of the complete absence of yawning. There’s of course the forbidden love between Lucille (Michelle Williams), the daughter of the strict and cold landowner Madame Angellier (beautiful played by Kristin Scott Thomas) on the one hand and officer Bruno von Falk (Schoenaerts), a German officer who has been assigned a place to sleep at the manor of the latter two ladies, on the other. Eventually, this forbidden love remains slumbering a bit on the background and isn’t imaged explicitely. But their like-minded love for music comes more to the fore. The additional storylines made it more interesting. The other arrogant German officer who sees himself as an Übermensch and treats the locals disrespectful, the callous mother in law who appears to be a resistance fighter in the making, the mayor and his wife (two genuine asskissers) trying to get in good graces with the occupiers but face the consequences afterwards and the resistance of a peasant against the oppressors.
All this is beautifully illustrated and featured with the usual scenes of war (a nosedive of German fighter-bombers against innocent refugees is included of course), which makes it an interesting war drama. But afterwards I didn’t think it was that innovative, so to speak. It’s the superb performances which nevertheless left a deep impression. The clichéd plot twists are not shunned, and what remains is a conservative adaptation of a manuscript left by a real war victim, Irène Némirovsky.