Film Review: Suite Française

Website Features editor Cerys Thomas reviews Suite Française, currently showing at the Curzon.

Photo by Curzon

Photo by Curzon

In a continuous cycle of what looks like Instagram-filtered frames, the camera pans over a rural stretch of golden emerald fields. Soon a distinctively British-accented narrator sets the scene: 1940, France.

In this tale about the German occupation of France during the Second World War the audience are treated to a banquet of strung-out clichés, feeble performances and laborious narrations that attempt to bridge the chasm of flawed cinematic story telling.

Like any and every other film about the French occupation, it’s a film about divided loyalties in the turbulent circumstances of war. Suite Française follows the protagonist Lucille Angellier’s (Michelle Williams) attempt to navigate her unhappy living situation with her dominant mother-in-law, Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas), and the demand that all French residences must take in German officers as lodgers. Lucille’s billeted German officer is the incandescently affable hunk Bruno von Falk, played by Matthias Schoenaerts. Cue the predictable love story. A love story remedied by the timeless student aphorism: ‘You don’t shit where you eat’. Unfortunately, Lucille mixed the two and, of course, cue the once more predictable fall-out of said shit-eating.

A vast majority of the cinematic focus is upon the piano in Lucille’s absent husband’s house, which stands as a metaphor for Lucille’s lacklustre marriage and neglected sexual desires that are rekindled as soon as Bruno begins tinkling its ivory keys. That’s not the only thing Bruno is tinkling, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more. The only reprieve from the saturated love scenes and monotonous dialogue is the formidable Madame Angellier. Scott’s character provides an element of grit to the sickly-sweet story, as she observes the necessity to assert that despite the secure proximity, the German occupiers are still the enemies. Akin to Maggie Smith’s character the Dowager Countess of Grantham in ‘Downton Abbey’, Angellier lifts the scene with scathing one liners that include: ‘I’ll be damned if I live by German time’.

What’s more, the fundamental disappointment of the film lies in its inability to commemorate its origins. As the credits roll, we are informed that Suite Française is based on an incomplete fictional epic about the occupation written by a Parisian-Jew Irène Némirovsky, whose literary ambitions were crushed by the Nazis, and who perished in Auschwitz in 1942. The incomplete manuscript of Némirovsky’s, which exhibits the author’s didactic artistry and laudable courage, is sadly bastardised by a film adaptation which is incapable of living up to the ambitions of its origin.

Suite Française is showing at Curzon, Canterbury from 14th-19th March.


No comments.

Leave a Reply

© 2007 inQuire | Terms and Conditions | Privacy | Designed by Move Ahead Design