Five desperate French soldiers during The Battle of the Somme shoot themselves, either by accident or with purpose, in order to be invalided back home. Having been "caught" a court-martial convenes and determines punishment to be banishment to No Man's Land with the objective of having the Germans finish them off. In the process of telling this tale each man's life is briefly explored along with their next of kin as Methilde, fiancée to one of the men, tries to determine the circumstances of her lover's death. This task is not made any easier for her due to a bout with polio as a child. Along the way she discovers the heights and depths of the human soul. Written by
Jean-Pierre Jeunet originally wanted to cast Dominique Pinon as Germain Pire the private eye and Ticky Holgado as uncle Sylvain. However, Holgado had been diagnosed with cancer and the studio refused to insure him. Therefore, Jeunet decided to switch the actors and did not regret his decision afterward. As Holgado became more and more ill, he began to have trouble concentrating and remembering his lines. Jeunet prepared a rough cut of the movie for Holgado to see, but Ticky passed on before he could do so. See more »
In the story of Manech's self inflicted wound, a tank can be seen taking part in the French attack. This type of tank, the Renault FT, did not see combat until March 1918. See more »
[peeling an apple]
If I don't break the peel, Manech is alive.
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Dazzling, never before have I seen such a visually pleasing picture. Jeunet has mastered the film medium giving 'A Very Long Engagement' a unique and fairy tale like visual style. Though rushed, the fantasy romance that Jeunet paints through flashbacks is inspiring. The graphic World War I trenches, provide an excellent contrast to the simple but charming mystery that Mathilde embarks on through the film.
Although Jeunet relies heavily on Audrey Tautou's performance, it is ultimately his one of a kind visual style that emotionally ties the viewer. This said, the latter portion of 'Long Engagement' feels very rushed and isn't treated to the same elegance that so well defines the first half. There are moments in the film where the visuals far overshadow the emotional intensity intended for the scene. This is perhaps 'Long Engagements' only fault, as it becomes unbalanced. The stylized and even cartoonish artistic direction that Jeunet leans to, although brilliant seems I'll fit for this wartime drama. Even so, 'A Very Long Engagement' comes off genuine and it's mix of fantasy romance and war will let you leave the theater fulfilled.
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