Un long dimanche de fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement)

Un long dimanche de fiançailles

Un long dimanche de fiançailles (1)


In the winter of 1917, five soldiers sentenced to death for self-harm were brought to the front to be punished. Mathilde, unconvinced, against all and all the evidences, refuses to admit the death of her fiance, one of the five condemned. She’s going to find out what really happened. At the price of a real police investigation.

First images: a high-angle shot to the battlefield and the trench reveals a piece of a still white statue of Christ, hung by an arm, to a tree before seeing the column, the first condemned and hearing his story. The second identical shot, this time, the body of a horse, black, the head stuck between two branches.
Suffering, destruction foretold of abandoned men and beasts …

The film faithfully respects the spirit of the book, despite significant changes in the scenario. A voice off takes up the text of the narrator, accompanied by images that reinforce the dramatic side of this war. Where color plays its role, predominantly gray for the war scenes and yellow for the scene of life away from the front.
For each condemned, the images go beyond simple illustrations of the text and give it flesh, complete it. They show their humanity, the circumstances that brought them there and their previous life, professional and love life, and for Bleuet, all his life. The whole interspersed with several « attention to the wire », telephone wire that crosses the trench at the height of man, only link with the world of the living, with the hope of a possible grace of President Poincaré.

The film begins like the first chapter of the book, the rain has replaced the snow … The five condemned, accompanied by other soldiers, are presented one after the other, by their number. The 2124, Bastoche, 4077, Six-Sous, 1818, Cet Homme, 7328, Ange or Droit commun and the last one, Bleuet, 9692. Bastoche, carpenter in the Bastille and his friend Veronique … Six-Sous, welder in Bagneux who knows, from a family tradition, that one day social justice … and who tries to convince his comrades … Ange, Droit commun of Belle de Mai, in Marseille, who was sentenced to five years in prison for a a question of honor … Cet Homme, a child of the Assistance publique, a peasant from the Dordogne, whom the gendarmes came to look for on the farm, triggering a sudden gust of wind that sets the wheats and steals the load of his cart. And Bleuet, Mathilde’s fiance.

Un long dimanche de fiançailles
Un long dimanche de fiançailles narrates the frightful conditions of daily life of the soldiers in the trenches, on the front which leads them to dehumanization, madness … self-mutilation which can only end in the Conseil de Guerre, enjoyed murder with the bayonet of a defenseless German, execution of a Frenchman by a bullet in the back because, white flag, he advances towards the German front, proclaiming that he was not French but Corsican … not to mention, to improve the statistics of the activity of the front, the order to send the condemned, between the lines, into the no mnan’s land. They will be counted as dead in battle … with the passive complicity of the entire hierarchy which simply executes the orders.

Un long dimanche de fiançailles focuses on Mathilde’s stubborn, stubborn, unbelievable quest to find the trace of Manex, Bleuet, disappeared. This research is told, through somewhat tedious epistolary exchanges in the novel, attenuated in the film. Notably by the images of the factor that brings the mail to Mathilde, treated Tati-like, arriving by bicycle on the gravel of the farm and even in the kitchen. This investigation and the life of Mathilde allow the reader to glimpse, little by little, by luminous images in the film, what was, what could have been the life of all these unfortunates.


Un long dimanche de fiançailles


Un long dimanche de fiançailles does not escape stereotypes. Apart from Manex-Manech, the central character who is Basque, the positive heroes are obviously from Paris, Bastoche, and the suburbs of Paris, the welder Six-Sous from Bagneux. The negative character is Corsican, evidently proxenet, Droit commun, and his beautiful protected woman, brown, dangerous lover and proud justicier. As for the detective Germain Pire, he is like all the southerners, with a strong sympathetic, compassionate accent, not hesitating, to find Tina, the lover of Droit commun, venturing into Corsica, picturesque and dangerous, where reigns the omerta and to continue it to her workplace where he is shown undergoing a professional toilet and a parade. But helpful and finally relatively efficient.


The essential point is the love story, since childhood, of Mathilde and Manex – MMM, Mathilde aime Manex, Manex aime Mathilde – in a beautiful landscape around a symbolic lighthouse. But the loves of the other characters are treated with the same finesse, increasing the contrast between the hardness of what these men live in war and the sensitivity of the love scenes: preliminal tongue games of Véronique and Bastoche that are found but impossible between Manex and Mathile, impossible at their very young age and the window interposed; in the light of matches, apparel offered from Mathilde to Manex, from Elodie to Bastoche, uncertain, lost between accepted obligations and desires avoided, opening an ephemeral link to the unexpected, sterile and devastating results. She will not have the sixth child who would allow the return of her husband and will cause a friendly breakup and a break in love. Fantasy disturbances of the faithful Mathilde.

Finally, Un long dimanche de fiançailles, a film about the woes of war, a police film, a romance movie, with however a net of hope.


Un long dimanche de fiançailles
Noise rushes that one can be happy

1 – Un long dimanche de fiançailles, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film, 2004, 134 mn, from Sebastien Japrisot’s novel, Denoël, 1991, 367 p.

2 – In Un long dimanche de fiançailles, many things happen who were already in the film All Quiet on the Western Front, sometimes with a different spirit: the soldiers who come up to the front and who see coffins or men who dig graves-we anticipate, « attention to the wire », with hope of grace, the importance of the boots that change owner – to survive – the rats that are hunted – here unfortunately, the character indispensable to find food – Kat and Poux – the sergeant intraitable but not sadiqueici ..


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