Monsignor Renard (2000)

 

 

 

Director:     David Wheatley. 

Starring:     John Thaw (Monsignor Augustine Renard),  Joachim Paul Assbck (Unteroffizier Dieter Franz),  John Axon (Sergeant Roger Duclos),  Teresa Banham (Clara Baquet),  Cheryl Campbell (Madeleine Claveau),  Juliette Caton (Helene Claveau),  Stephen Hoyle (Jacques Rambure),  Geoffrey Hutchings (Louis Cavailles),  Bjrn Jung (Willi),  Adam Kotz (Henri Baquet),  Jamie Lee (Jean Marie Vercors),  Torben Liebrecht (Alois),  Des McAleer (Yves Renard),  Andrew McCulloch (Abert Claveau),  Colin McLaughlan (Jean Lefranc),  Rebecca Raybone (Catherine Sarraut),  Bernd-Uwe Reppenhagen (Major Karl-Heinz Drexler),  Carl Rice (Rene Montandon),  Anatole Taubman (Lieutenant Heinrich Beckmann),  Sam Townend (Gaston Sarraut),  Timothy Walker (Antoine Cabache),  Gregor Weber (Otto),  Jimmy Yuill (Malo Gagnepain),  Michael Attwell (M. Dufosse),  Richard Cubison (Rambure),  Louis Hammond (Denez),  Barbara Kellerman (Mme. Dufosse),  Judi Lamb (Annette Lefranc),  Jamie O'Brien (Felix Dufosse),  Clara Rice (Gabrielle Rouveute),  William Travis (Francois Michaux),  Jay Villiers (Doniel Flandin),  Gregory Chisholm (Didier Montandon),  Dominic Monaghan (Etienne Pierre Rollinger),  Patrick Nielsen (David Lavalle).

Masterpiece Theater production about German occupation of France

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film and some curse words. 

 

First Installment. 

Introduction.  In the spring of 1940 Germany conquered France in five weeks.  The story begins just one month after the conquest.  It is set in a French town called St. Josse near the English Channel.  The town is occupied by German troops and its people are demoralized, angry and uncertain about how to cope with an army of occupation.  Monsignor Renard is trying to keep the relationship between the French and the German going as smooth as possible, but it's not an easy job.  The towns people are divided over the question of cooperation or resistance.  And when a French woman comes along who wants to cooperate, explosive tensions may develop.  

Renard was born in the town but has just returned from a long absence.  Some of the townspeople new Renard as a young man.  One of these is his brother, who is the lover of the wife of the local pub keeper Madeline.  Years ago she and Renard were in love.  Madeline's young daughter Helene starts becoming interested in a German soldier. 

France, July 1940.  A man gets up from bed and looks out the window.  He puts some money in a dish.  Nazi police and soldiers arrive looking for someone.  The woman awakens from bed, sees the money and asks the man what's the money for?  She is not some whore, she says.  They kiss.  Across the way neighbors are disgusted to see her at it again.  The Germans bust into the neighbor's apartment.  They go to a bedroom and with a rifle butt knock out a man who has just awakened and is trying to get up.  Blood shoots from his mouth onto the pillow.  The soldiers discover an English pistol.  The unfortunate man is a relative of the family.   

The Germans are taking in both the man and the two women.  The man from across the way comes into the street to see what is the problem.  He is a French policeman.  The German policeman in civilian clothing says he is Brandt, Commander-in-Chief, Field Police, North East.  The women were harboring an escaped soldier. 

The Germans put up posters of a German soldier holding one child while at his side are two other smiling children.  The poster says:  "Trust the German soldier!"  Monsignor Renard is in the local barber shop.  A French policeman comes in and tells the proprietor that he doesn't have his list in the window.  The list has to say who lives and works at this address.  The policeman also tells Renard that he has to do the same for his church.  A postman delivers a letter to the owner of the barber shop.  He then tells what he knows about a matter concerning what happened at Dunkirk.  In private Renard tells the young postman not to announce such news in front of so many men.  "The less people know, the less they have to tell," he says.

The Germans are making an inventory at the local pub.  One of the pretty young French waitresses (Helene) smiles at a German soldier.  One of the villagers tells the Monsignor that the girl certainly has that German soldier distracted.  Later the soldier checks the list in the window and sees the young lady is named Helene Claveau, the daughter of the proprietors Madeleine and Abert Claveau.  Renard continues ripping down the German posters.  A German soldier sees him and tells him to stop because he is defacing Wehrmacht property.  Renard says that the posters don't belong on a church.  He tells the soldier that if he has a complaint, take it up with Major Karl-Heinz Drexler. 

The townspeople see the three arrested French village residents being taken to jail and they follow the truck carrying them.  Renard asks who are they and Helene tells him that it's Sylvie, her husband's mother and a relative.  Renard asks why these people were arrested and is told they were harboring a fugitive.  He is one of the soldiers left over from Dunkirk.  Francois Michaux, the husband of the arrested woman, and his friend Lefranc come running up and the friend demands to know what's going on.  Brandt arrests Francois.  He will be taken in for questioning.  The friend says the last Frenchman that went in for questioning went out of a first floor window.  A scuffle develops and Renard shouts:  "Enough!"  Lefranc asks:  "Father, whose side are you on?"  On the side of reason, says the clergyman.  He is trying to stop the spilling of any more blood. 

The village pharmacist and his wife are arguing very loudly.  The man is leaving.  The fight stops when the pharmacist runs into a neighbor, the deputy mayor of the town, Danielle.  The druggist asks the neighbor about his missing child.  The neighbor apologizes that he can't help him find his child.  The man says he will check back with him when he returns.  After the man leaves, the deputy mayor knocks on the woman's door.  The woman doesn't answer and Danielle says:  "Clara, please!"  He leaves. 

Renard pushes into the office of Major Drexler to complain about the arrest of Francoiz Michaux.  He says that the fugitive is French, a family member of those he was staying with.  The Major reminds Renard that all French soldiers are to turn themselves into the authorities.  When Renard is outside again Francois's friend asks him what happened.  The Major says he will think about it.  Lefranc is disgusted with the clergyman saying that Renard would never stick his neck out for one of us.

Back at the church Renard is harboring his own soldier.  The soldier was one of three that were together and wounded a French policeman when he tried to stop them.  The relative of the Michaux family was also one of the three soldiers.  Renard goes to speak with Monsieur LaMer, the town mayor.  The deputy mayor comes in followed a little later by two German soldiers.  They take the fancy chair of the town mayor and the fancy candlesticks to take to Major Drexler.  Renard asks about the missing boy.  There is no news.

The mayor tells the Monsignor that the French Vichy government (in charge of only the south of France) has decided that it is not appropriate to celebrate Republican values on Bastille Day.  And the town would be wise to follow the Vichy example. 

The Monsignor pays a visit to the local furniture maker, who is Renard's brother.  Renard tells the fellow that the villagers look to him for answers as if he could solve all their problems, but he can't.  The man bitterly says that Renard should just leave, shove off!  That's what he does best, after all.  A dejected Renard starts to leave and his brother tells him that if he has all that forgiveness for the townspeople, surely he has some left over to forgive himself. 

Renard goes into the pharmacy shop to talk to the man whose son has gone missing.  The pharmacist gives the Monsignor his last bit of laudanum to say thanks for Renard's help. 

Brandt comes to the church to see Renard.  He says that they should be friends.  He compares Hitler to Christ because like Christ the Fuhrer took upon himself the sins of the German people.  Renard becomes angry and tells Brandt not to blaspheme.  The Monsignor makes it plain that he will not cooperate with the secret police.  Brandt says that the battle lines have been drawn.  He quotes the old saying:  "He who is not with me, is against me." 

On Bastille Day Monsignor Renard honors the war dead of France.  He speaks of those ideals for which Frenchmen have died:  liberty, equality, fraternity.  A German officer tells the people with Renard that in honor of their independence day the Michaux family will be released without charge.  The four people are let go.  But from now on people harboring enemies of the Reich will not be dealt with so leniently.  Brandt at headquarters complains that Renard wouldn't let the German soldiers bring their search dogs into the church. 

At night the townspeople have a celebration complete with food and wine.  Madeleine Claveau leaves the party.  She tell Renard outside that she just can't celebrate with the Germans here.  It's grotesque.  She says she can't take it anymore and leaves.  The deputy mayor goes over to say something to Clara when her husband and two girls are getting something to eat.  Monsignor sees the two together and has a knowing look about them.  Later Clara meets Danielle outside.  She thinks he has some information about her lost child.  Danielle tells her there is no news, so Clara starts to go in again.  The deputy mayor stops her and tells her to talk to him.  But she cries and says she can't because it's because of their affair that her little boy is missing.  If she had been a good wife and mother this wouldn't have happened.  Danielle says that's ridiculous.  There are children missing all over France.  But Clara says she feels it so.  She says she is being punished.  Danielle calms her down with kisses and soon she responds in kind. 

Her husband comes out and catches the two of them together.  He doesn't say anything.  He just turns around and goes back inside.  Clara goes back inside.  A group of German soldiers come to the celebration.  The room suddenly goes quiet and everyone stares at the Germans.  The mayor comes over and invites them to have something to eat.  The Germans say thank you and come all the way in. 

Madeline is back at the bar.  Her last customer leaves.  Now she only has her German tenant there with her.  He asks her to provide him with her company.  He tells her about his life in Munich.  He is a pilot and started his interest in aviation at an early age.  At the celebration the German soldier who likes Helene asks her to dance.  Her father gives his approval and they dance.  He tells her his name is Alois.  The young Frenchman who likes Helene throws some fire crackers on the dance floor and one of the Germans hits the deck. 

Renard takes the lad (named Etienne Pierre Rollinger) outside and scolds him.  The young man says they shouldn't be dancing with their girls.  Renard says there are a lot of things they shouldn't be doing.  He tells Etienne to go home.  But Etienne says he can't because he just got laid off for lack of work and he can't tell his parents because they are dependent on the money he makes.  The Monsignor recommends working at the saw mill, but Etienne says he won't build barges for the Germans. 

A Frenchman picks up a possibly poisonous mushroom.  Renard sees Madeline dancing with her German tenant.  The pharmacist's wife tells her husband that she is so sorry for her affair with the deputy mayor.  The Germans tear up the church under the supervision of Brandt.  Renard comes in and shouts at them to stop.  A German soldier grabs him and Brandt slaps the clergyman.  They are going to arrest the soldier the Monsignor has been hiding.  Brandt goes up to the loft but the soldier is not there.  Brandt, however, does find the English cigarettes the soldier was smoking. 

The Germans march out of the church with Renard.  A woman who knows Renard well demands to know what the Germans are planning to do with the Monsignor.   She starts screaming at and manhandling Brandt. The Monsignor is thrown in a cell.  Brandt wants him to tell him where the soldier is.  Renard won't tell him.  Brandt and his men come into the local tavern and demand to see everyone's identification papers.  Madeline's German soldier tenant sasses Brandt, saying that if Brandt actually met a real English soldier, he would probably piss his pants.  Major Drexler speaks with Renard in his cell.  He urges Renard to tell Brandt what he wants to know.  Brandt goes to the furniture maker's place.  People on the street are stopped and asked to show their identification papers.  A man with English cigarettes is arrested. 

Madeline goes to the mayor to see if she can't get him to help get Renard out of jail.  When he says he can do nothing she says that in the next election they'll throw him out.  She goes to see the furniture maker to get his help.  In turn, the furniture maker goes to see Michaux and Lefranc to ask for their help.  They say that they can't do anything about it. Brandt tells Renard that he heard that at one time he was engaged to be married to Madeline Claveau who now is married to Abert.  The Monsignor tells Brandt that he made a conscious choice to abandon his humanity.  Brandt tells Renard that his own brother has abandoned him. 

The saw mill workers go to the boss's house to say they are not going to build any more German barges until Renard is released.  The boss says the Germans will shoot them.  Michaux says:  "Then they never will get their bloody barges, will they?" 

Renard is given five minutes to walk in the yard.  As he walks to the yard, he sees the English cigarette man being beaten by the Germans.  Madeline brings fresh flowers for her German tenant, but discovers that a soldier is there picking up his things.  He says his family will want his personal things.  Apparently, Brandt had the German eliminated for sassing him earlier.  Upset, Madeline sits down on the bed. 

The French police sergeant goes to speak with the French police kommisar.  He says he's crossing a line if he goes after the French priest.  The sergeant tells him he will not be party to the abuse of the Monsignor.  Renard asks to see Brandt and Brandt comes into his cell. 

German soldiers and their German shepherds go looking for someone.  With them is Brandt and Renard.  He shows them where the Englishman is.  He points out the English soldier's grave.  Brandt is mad.  He gives the order to dig up the soldier.  With the third soldier accounted for, Brandt is transferred out of St. Josse.  Renard and the man with the English cigarettes are both released from jail.  Renard dreads returning to his church after what Brandt and his thugs did to the place.  But when he enters the church he sees it has all been put back together.  And some of those who fixed up the place are still cleaning the church.  Clara comes to church to make her confession.  She still feels God is punishing her for her indiscretions. 

Madeline tells Renard that he is a fool.  She saw the English soldier.  She asks:  "Why take such risks?"  He says he may have done it for his own sake.  Madeline leaves. 

 

Second Installment. 

Introduction.  1940.  The German occupation of France isn't as brutal as it later will be.  But there are signs of trouble.  Black-market operations begin; food is being stolen;  French boy taunt German soldiers; a French girl has rejected her young French suitor and is enchanted by a German soldier.  Neighbors denounce neighbors.  A underground resistance movement is starting to form.  Father Bernard is mostly concerned about putting together the annual parade in honor of the town's patron saint. 

France, September 1940.  Helene watches the German work detail without their shirts on coming back form work.  Madeline asks her if she is looking for Alois, the one who saved the child.  Helene says no.  She leaves the house.  Etienne tries to talk to her.  He tells her that he has a new job cutting timber for the sawmill.  But Helene is just not listening to him. 

Abert comes over and they talk about their daughter who appears to be in love.  And she's not in love with with Etienne.  Abert wonder if it's that German she's in love with, but Madeline says she certainly hopes not.  Abert thinks me might not be that bad. After all, the Germans are going to be here for a long time.  And thanks to the Germans, the pub is finally making some money. 

Helen goes to pray.  In the bakery the Nazi chef cuts the line to take bread from the bakery.  He sees a young dark man in a turban from Madagascar comes out from the back with a big loaf of bread.  The chef says stop that thief!  The Nazi guards tells him to halt, but he keeps running.  Then one of the guards shoots the young fellow.  The Monsignor runs to see what happened.  The young man is dead.  Renard asks why was he shot?  The Major says probably because he was stealing bread.  Renard is mad they shot him only because he stole one loaf of bread because he was hungry. 

Alois is the one who shot the young man and he gets dressed down for doing it.  Helene asks Renard what happened?  She was sure it was Alois who was shot, but she won't tell the Monsignor that.  She talks to Alois in the cafe with people staring at them.  Helene asks him if he will be punished?  He will be send to fix up some damage at the airfield.  Etiennce loudly makes disparaging remarks about the Germans.  The German soldiers get drunk and start a row and Abert chucks them all out.  Helene's father and mother give her disapproving looks. 

An elementary school teacher runs off a Resistance flyer.  Renard has a meeting called with the mayor and others to discuss the route for the Harvest Procession.  The route has to be changed.  They have to go round one section because of the Germans there.  Lefranc says the fellow who was shot the other day was only a nigga.  Lefranc doesn't want the route changed.  So the route will stay the same.  In the area where the Germans killed the young French soldier from Madagascar, they will stop and the Monsignor will say a prayer for the young man's soul, who, says Renard, came here to fight as a machine gunner with the knowledge that he was surrounded by compatriots and friends.   Just before the Monsignor leaves, the Mayor, needing more rooms to house the Germans, asks Renard how many room does he have in the presbytery? 

Renard goes to the school room to tell the elementary children that a young black man has been shot and killed.  The children will hear some nasty things about the man, but they are to pay no heed to the words.  The young fellow came a long way to do what he thought would help France. 

One of the school children drops a Resistance flyer and Renard picks it up.   He tries to get all the copies of the flyer from the children.  He goes to speak to the teacher and tells her no, no.  She must never use the children for they are the innocents.  He tells her she must not do this on her own.  "These things must be planned." 

Boss Dufosse of the saw mill announces to the workers that the Germans want no more barges.  They have enough to invade England.  He lays off quite a few of his men.  Michaux comes to Lefranc and asks him what happened to the union?   The boss says German military law is what happened to the union.  The port of Calais is now under German military law and he for one can't say he's sorry to see it.  This country was forced into a destructive war by French socialists and English Jewry. 

Clara bursts into her husband's pharmacy shop and tells him the boy who was shot was their son.  Her husband tries to assure her it was not their, but she won't listen saying that the Monsignor is just trying to protect them for the truth.  She runs out and over to the police station.  She demands to see the body of the boy.  The sergeant won't let her, so she tries to force her way by him.  He stops her.  Monsignor is in the building and he asks the police chief if he knows anything about the missing boy?  The chief say close the door.   According to a letter he was slaughtered, dismembered and eaten by the Communists or the Jews.  The letter came from an anonymous illiterate.  The sergeant calls for Carla's husband.   The sarge tells Henri to get Clara out of her because she has become unhinged. 

The police chief says that one day someone will write him a letter about Renard telling him to arrest the Monsignor because he has done something treasonous or criminal. He says his drawers are full of these denunciations and if he arrests everyone denounced there will be nobody left in the town except for those in jail.  And there are false confessions that they killed a German soldier.  But no German soldier has died here.  The chief says that one day they will have to murder the Germans and then where will Renard stand?  Renard just tells him to burn all those letters.  That the chief keeps the letters says worse things about him, then about the writers of the denunciations.  Renard says that since the chief can't help him with the procession, he will have to speak to the Germans himself. 

Henri tries to take his wife out forcefully, but she screams bloody murder.  Renard rushes out to the street telling Henri to stop because he is hurting his wife.  Henri is angry at the priest, but he stops.  Renard talks with the woman.  He has her say a prayer with him in the middle of the street. 

Renard goes to speak with the sawmill boss.  He meets his son, Jean Paul, who now is a captain in the Vichy army.  The young man says he doesn't wear a uniform because the Germans don't want to be reminded that they exist.   The boss asks Renard if it's true all the Jews are to be sent to Madagascar.  Renard says it's not likely.  The son says as long as they are send somewhere he doesn't really care.  At the supper table the Dufosse asks the priest what is a Jew?  His wife is upset by the conversation because she is half a Jew.  She asks the Monsignor if he could not make the Germans see the difference among the Jews here in France.  Renard says it's impossible.  As they get deeper into Dufosse family affairs Renard says he should go.  Jean Paul learns that the Major is staying in their house and has taken the son's room for his own.  Jean Paul looks very shocked.  He says he will stay in St. Josse and leaves, followed by Renard.  Jean Paul tells Renard that he hates Jews.  He blames them for all their ills like they all do.  He hates Jews, socialists and communist.  Jean Paul didn't know about his Jewish ancestry and now is very upset. 

Renard goes to see Major Drexler.  The Major asks him how the town is doing?  He has been pleased to get rid of the curfew and wonders if the town has become resigned to its fate.  Renard says it's just that the people are still stunned by the events of the last year.  He then asks Drexler if they can proceed through the Place du mar (? spelling).  Drexler says he sees no reason why they cannot.

Renard goes to the dentist because he has a chipped tooth.

The Major speaks with Dufosse and he wife.  Dufosse asks the Major about what will happen to them.  Mrs. Dufosse starts to cry.  She leaves the room.  Dufosse tells the Major that he fears his wife qualifies as Jewish.   This was unknown to Dufosse when he married her.  The Major immediately gets up and says he has to find another place to live.  Dufosse is stunned.  And his son must tell the Vichy authorities.  His military career is over.  He could not have been a good officer anyway because that is beyond the Jews.  The Major says he will leave early tomorrow morning.   

The father is assigned two German officers to house.  They say they are priests.  Renard goes up to talk with one of them, but he is asleep.  So he goes to see the other man.  This soldier priest says that the man sleeping off a drunk is a Catholic bishop.  An old Frenchman takes a German jeep and rides away with it to have it hidden.  The bishop comes out and doesn't even notice the jeep is gone.  He goes down to the local pub.  When the other priest finds out, he goes looking for the bishop. 

Renard goes to the pub where the bishop and his staff are boozing it up and singing.  Madeline wants to talk to Renard about her daughter who is getting very involved with a German soldier.  She thinks about her soldier all the time.  The Monsignor says he will speak to Helene.  Renard asks her what's the fellow like?  Madeline says it doesn't matter what he's like. 

The jeep swiper tells Renard that he nearly got caught.  The other German priest comes in and asks Renard where is he?  He says he put his Grace to bed.  The priest leaves. 

His Grace is up early and asks Renard if he can perform the mass and will Renard please hear his confession? 

A Jewish family of husband and wife and three children moves into the house belonging to the dentist.  They will hide in his cellar.  The priest does the mass, but then he falls asleep when Renard gives his sermon.  He preaches that he wants people to stop using vicious slurs like nigga, Jew said in scorn, bosch, gipsy and whore.  Everyone is to be respected.  The German chaplain doesn't approve of the speech and leaves. 

The Jewish family finds a dead man with them in the cellar.  The family bangs on the cellar door. The dentist grabs his shotgun, opens the door and blasts the family with two separate shots.

The bishop tells Renard that the chaplain is taking him under arrest to Berlin for making just such a sermon as the Monsignor made today.  The two German clergymen drive off. 

The procession of the Harvest Festival winds its way through the street.  Helen drops out of the procession along the way.   She goes to see Alois.  She keeps watching her wristwatch while waiting for him. When she turn her back to the street a man pushes her up against the wall.   

When the procession gets to Place du mar the priest says that they will not avail themselves of the right to go through the plaza until France is ruled by her own people.  He has the people stand for a moment in silence to honor the man from Madagascar killed at this place.  He says let us dedicate this place to our unknown soldier. 

 

Russell Baker says that the political tensions of St. Josse reflect the larger political divisions that had paralyzed France in the 1930s.  In those years France was becoming a comic model of ineffectual government.  French communists and socialists fought each other for power and both fought French fascists.  Parliamentary democracy like Britain's was widely considered absurd.  It certainly had failed in France.  French communists were devoted to Stalin and Moscow.  When Stalin became a German ally it put the communists in a humiliating bind.  Hitler represented everything that communists hated.  The communists went with Stalin.  The communist to whom Renard offer his eggs may still hate Hitler but he didn't want the English to win the war either.  It wasn't until Hitler had crossed Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 that the communists became devoted to the Allied cause.  Then they became some of the fiercest fighters in the resistance movement and against Hitler.  Anti-Semitism was rife in France.  With so many political divisions it's no wonder that France in the twenty years leading up to World War II had no fewer than 43 governments.   

 

Third Installment. 

 Introduction.  St. Josse has been under German occupation for four months.  Renard is troubled by his own attempts to accommodate the Germans. 

France, November 1940.  Alois tries to speak with Helene but she looks upset and just runs away from him.  Helene goes to the pub and doesn't say anything to her mother.  Her mother notices that she has really changed. She goes to see her daughter and says she is pregnant.  When Helene doesn't deny it, she says:  "You stupid, stupid girl." 

Catherine Sarraut, the housekeeper for the church, tells Renard that Mrs. Lefranc is taking in washing for the Germans and that's not all she's taking in.  Renard doesn't want to hear it.  He says there is enough tittle-tattle going around this town as it is and some of it is very dangerous. 

Madeline goes to see a man and tells him she needs his help.  At school Felix Dufosse has a paper stuck to his back with the word "Yid" on it.  The teacher gets mad and says she never wants to hear or see that word ever again.  Madeline speaks with Renard.  She wants to get her daughter out of town until she has had the child.  She's afraid to tell her husband because he will be angry  Madeline wants to put the child up for adoption.  Renard tells her to ask Helene what she wants to do. 

Felix Dufosse asks the teacher what does that word Yid mean.  She sits and talks with him.  He is very upset since he overheard parts of his parents' discussion of a disturbing family matter.  Felix knows something bad is up, but doesn't fully understand it. 

Renard goes to see Helene who is standing by the water.  She says:  "I know you know."  Mrs. Dufosse goes through a suitcase full of her family memorabilia.  She says something to her husband (but I can't make it out and there are no subtitles for we Americans to help us with British English). 

Renard talks to Helene in the church office.  He suddenly realizes that Helene did not have consensual sex but was raped.  When he tries to touch her she jumps out of her chair and goes to the other side of the room.  Etienne tells an insulting joke about the Germans and one of the Germans who doesn't like Etienne anyway, gives him a dirty look as he leaves the pub.  Helene tells Renard not to tell anyone else, including her mother and father. 

The town mayor and deputy mayor talk with Major Drexler about being able to use the town bijou one night a week.  Drexler says he will consider it.  The mayor offers his hand for a handshake but the Major won't shake his hand.  The Major tells his aide:  "What a revoltingly crawly little man." 

The police sergeant along with Renard speak with the pharmacist.  A child found a book belonging to the pharmacist's son.  It was near the accident sight where a lorry ran over a landmine.  The truck caught fire and the bodies were badly burned.  They were all buried in the same grave.  Renard says that the man's child might still be alive.  They can't be positive that one of the two burned children was his son. The pharmacist cries and says:  "Oh, poor Clara!" 

Etienne and his friend tease a couple of German soldiers looking for a place to swim.  The soldiers leave in disgust.  Etienne starts walking and runs into Helene and she screams:  "Stay away from me!"  He turns around and walks away quickly. 

There has been a death in Mrs. Dufosse's family and she wants to go to the Free Zone (ruled by the French pro-German Vichy government).  She wants to take Felix with her.  Mrs. Dufosse goes to see the French police chief for permission, but her being Jewish, he says, complicates matters.  So she offers him money.  He wants more money.  She says she doesn't have it.  He says "you people" always have some money squirreled away. 

Clara tells Renard that she went to Cherbourg and the grave was open and, it must have been a miracle, her son looked just like he always was.  Renard looks at her husband as if to say, you know, she's crazy.  The French police chief cooperates with Major Drexler as he goes down the list of the town inhabitants.  He suggests they keep an eye on the local elementary school teacher.  The chief asks for permission to let Mrs. Dufosse and her young son go to a funeral for her grandfather in Caan.  The Major says perhaps she will decide to stay there with her people and that will be two less problems for himself.   

Dufosse drops his wife and son off at the railway station.  They get on the train.  A French policeman comments to a porter that they are stricter on the Jews down south.  "Petain was quicker off the mark than Hitler."  Town residents come into the bijou to watch a film.  The newsreel deals with Marshall Petain, "the man who is France".  It's just all propaganda.  Etienne and his friend get thrown out  by two German soldiers for talking and joking. 

The German soldiers jump on the back of a truck.  When they see Etienne they stop the truck and the soldiers jump out.  Etienne jumps inside a building and the Germans go by him.  Later Renard sees Etienne on the street and he pulls him into the church.  Two German soldiers burst into Renard's office asking where is Etienne.  He was seen around here.  All of a sudden Etienne gives himself up, apologizing to the Monsignor for using the church.  Etienne sees Alois and asks him if he has had Helene yet.  He says he has.  Alois says he heard differently.  He puts a finger up and slowly lets it back down.  Etienne knocks Alois down and starts hitting him in the face.  The other German soldiers pull him off. 

The French police chief says that Etienne will be tried by a military tribunal on Monday, December 30.    The charge is assaulting a soldier of the German Reich.   

Helen seeks out someone who can get her in touch with an abortionist. 

On the radio De Gaulle asks the French people to show their solidarity by remaining inside and off the streets for one hour on January 1.  "Reflect on your oppression and look forward to your liberation. . . . Let this be a protest both silent and strong.  Let it be the hour of hope.  Long live France!  Long live the Republic!"  The Germans tell the mayor and deputy-mayor that they will give each family a free loaf of bread on January 1, between the hours of three and four. 

Renard attends the military tribunal.  Witnesses are brought forward.  Alois testifies that he had severe bruising to one eye and a broken nose.  And he was off duty for two days.  Alois says that Etienne did not try to escape and that it was a personal matter between them over a local girl.  The tribunal adjourns for thirty minutes.  Drexler calls the General who tells him Etienne must be shot as an example to all.  The Major says it will be an example all right, but of what?  When the tribunal reconvenes Etienne is told that he has been found guilty and will be put to death tomorrow, the 31st of December, 1940 at 0800 hours.  Etienne is no longer cocky in his attitude.     

After being picked up, Helene is taken to a farm house and introduced to the woman of the house.  She takes Helene into the kitchen by the fire. 

Renard tries to get Drexler to stop the execution.   Drexler apologizes but says there is nothing they can do.  Renard says this is unacceptable and he will not stand for it.  Drexler goes ballistic saying how dare he say he won't stand for it.  Germany is not a guest, they invaded France, they conquered France and now they rule France.  They are not to be judged or told what to do by the French.  He sits down and composes himself.  He says he will let the priest comfort the condemned.  But he warns Renard that when he speaks to his congregation, make sure he speaks of God and not politics. 

Helene is back in town but doubled over with pain.  Etienne's friend confronts her and says Etienne is going to be shot all because she couldn't stay away from some bastard German.  He tells her that she is going to get hers one day.  He pushes her and throws horse dung at her back. 

The deputy mayor tells Renard that the funeral service will be on Wednesday for Etienne.  And anyone who is not on the streets between 3 and 4 will be considered to be a traitor to France.  "Or someone who wants extra bread," says Renard. 

Abert yells at Madeline and Helene for not telling him what was going on with his daughter.  Dad says he's going to kill that bloody German.  Both women tell him to stay away from Alois.  Renard comes up and Helene asks him to tell her parents what happened.  "It was rape," says Renard.  Dad is mad at Renard for not telling them earlier and wants him to go down with him and watch him beat up Alois.  Helene says it wasn't Alois, but Etienne.  And now they are killing Etienne.  She says she wants the baby back now.  Renard tells Helene that he is going to go see Etienne.  What does she want him to tell the lad? 

Etienne tells the Monsignor he doesn't want a priest or any of that church stuff.  Nor does he want to confess.  He just wants to tell Renard something.  The priest tells him that he already knows about Helene.  The condemned young man cries and says that he is so sorry.  He was just so angry and fed up with this whole shitty world. Renard says he will try and make her understand. 

The Germans cut Etienne's hair off.   He is tied to a pole in front of a firing squad.  Etienne pisses his pants, but refuses a blindfold.  He is executed.  The shot is heard in the town and Helene screams.  But Etienne is not dead yet.  Drexler's aide shoots him in the head with his pistol.  Father listens to Etienne's records on his record player.  Madeline comes in to speak with him.  She tells him that she thought that he might want her to sit with him.  Renard nods yes. 

Renard starts his sermon.  He came back to the town seven months ago.  Renard says that evil is everywhere, but it can be beaten.  The occupation has put them all to a test of their faith and of their common humanity. 

Loaves of bread are brought out to give to the townspeople.  The Germans make the mayor stand at the head of the line.  When the bell announces 3 p.m. the mayor leaves and the others in line grab as much bread as they can and run away.  Madeline tells her customers watching the Germans that everyone must come inside.  They can all come out at 4 p.m. and, she screams:  ". . . be as bloody French as we can be!"

The customers see Renard walking up to the Germans.  They are shocked to see him on the streets.  He puts a wreath on the statute in the plaza in honor of Etienne Pierre Rollinger, victim of the war.  He goes back into his church and the Germans start packing up their bread.   

Commentator Russell Baker says that the Germans stayed in towns like St. Josse for another three and a half years.  The Allied invasion at Normandy finally ended the German occupation. 

 

A good series.  I have seen a lot of films on the French Resistance, but there wasn't much resistance in this small fictional town of St. Josse.  The most resistance came from a young, cocky teenager.   The town was very quiet, but the  little personal dramas of a small town where everyone knows everyone else still went on as before.  As the commentator explained the town was divided by the same political divides that fractured France as a whole, with communists, socialist and fascists.  Renard didn't seem conflicted enough as to his response to the Germans.  He is a very good man and a big help to the community, but at times a little too cordial to the Germans.   But in a way, he helped make things so calm in the village there there was not much  motivation for a French Resistance.  A real Resistance is not even mentioned. 

There was also a lot of racism/ethnicism in the little town.  There were quite a few mentions of the "niggas"  and many treated the only part Jewish Mrs. Dufosse very badly.  (One villager was even killing Jews before Hitler could get around to them.)  Frankly, it's not a very heroic view of resistance in the small town.  I have been wondering why there are so many French films on the French Resistance.  If things were more like what happened in St. Josse, there probably was a film market to prove that the French were really brave and really resisted the German occupation.  Even the German commander was surprised at how little resistance there was in St. Josse. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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