Un long dimanche de fiançailles

(A Very Long Engagement) (2004)





Director:  Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring:  Audrey Tautou (Mathilde), Gaspard Ulliel (Manech), Dominique Pinon (Sylvain), Chantal Neuwirth (Bénédicte), André Dussollier (Pierre-Marie RouviPres), Ticky Holgado (Germain Pire), Marion Cotillard (Tina Lombardi), Dominique Bettenfeld (Ange Bassignano), Jodie Foster (Elodie Gordes), Jean-Pierre Darroussin (Benjamin Gordes), Clovis Cornillac (Benoît Notre-Dame), Jean-Pierre Becker (Lieutenant Esperanza), Denis Lavant (Six-Soux), Jérôme Kircher (Bastoche), Albert Dupontel (Célestin Poux)

a French woman has to become a detective in her search for her fiancé who she believes is missing in action, not dead.


Very good movie. 

January 6, 1917. For the crime of self-inflicted wounds (for the purpose of getting out of the war), five French condemned prisoners are escorted to Bouchavesnes at the front in the Somme:

1) Bastoche, a carpenter wearing boots he had taken from a dead German soldier;

2) Francis "Six Sous" Gaignard, a welder for the state railways;

3) Benoît Notre-Dame, a farmer from Dordogne, the bravest and toughest of the group who, unknown to all but himself, killed a French officer;

4) Ange Bassignano, the Corsican who was no angel at all (Tina Lombardi was his whore); and

5) Manech "Cornflower" almost 20 years old (whose girlfriend, Mathilde, a victim of polio, is the narrator of the film). 

They are sent out into no-man's land between the French and German trenches.

When Mathilde learns that her fiancé has been killed, she does not believe it.  She knows in her heart that he is alive, so she begins a search for Manech.  She is in for a long journey.  She painfully searches for any soldier who was at the front who might have seen Manech during his death sentence.  To help her, she hires Germain Pire as a detective.  In addition, she writes letters and does historical documents research in her search for Manech.

Not believing her man is dead, Tina Lombadi is also looking for her soldier, Ange Bassignano, the Corsican.  She has heard that a French soldier wearing German boots was retrieved from the battlefield.  She believes that man to be Bastoche.  And it is her hope that Bastoche might have helped another condemned soldier, Ange, escape. 

Bastoche might have cheated death with the help of his friend Corporal Gordes, who was present at the time the condemned were sent into no man's land.  Gordes himself had tried to get out of the war; not by self-inflicted wounds, but by having his wife bear a sixth child (none of which were his biologically --  five adopted, the sixth, hopefully, by surrogate Bastoche).

During her search, Mathilde learns that the five men actually received a pardon, but one man along the chain of delivery decided to delay the forwarding of  the message until after the death sentences were successfully completed. 

The scenes from the trenches help give the viewer some idea of the hardships and horrors the French and German soldiers went through during the First World War.  But it is the love story that cheers one's heart.  Mathilde is one determined woman and tracks down every possible lead, no matter how slim a chance it might have of leading her to the final answer: is her Manech alive.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:



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