Review: Suite Française

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Review: Suite Française

A note perfect glimpse of life in occupied France during the Second World War: the horrors, desperation and love that grows from a shared passion of music.

Lucille Angellier (Michelle Williams) is married to Gaston the beloved son of Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas). Whilst Gaston is off fighting the Nazis, Lucille lives with his mother and learns how to run the estate which essentially means collecting the rents from the tenants. Her only joy comes from playing the piano. The war and refugees fleeing Paris descend on peaceful Bussy but rather than escape they bring with them the Nazis. With Bussy occupied, all the inhabitants are instructed to take in a German soldier. Madame Angellier reluctantly complies and in a single action invites in forbidden love.

This is a surprising film. It starts off slowly and along a well trodden path for the first half of the film and then there are surprising twists and turns. There is also humour when Lieutenant Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts ) says of Madame Angellier: “she could easily scare the plague away”. The cinematography is beautiful almost as if watching a series of impressionist paintings sewn together. Even the ugliest of narrative scenes – death by execution – is exquisitely shot. The dialogue feels for the most part redundant for the power of the film comes from the nuanced and powerful performances of the three principal actors especially the scenes between Lieutenant Bruni and Lucille Angellier. Their scenes show the fragility yet compelling power love can hold over two people.

This film is all the more powerful because of the backstory – a manuscript found 65 years after the end of the war written by a Jewish woman, Irène Némirovsky, hiding from the Nazis and who ultimately died at Auschwitz. It was brought back to life and published in 2014 due to her daughter finding the long hidden way manuscript.

Suite Française is released on dvd and blu ray from 27 July 2015. It’s well worth a look for those who enjoy watching rather than listening to verbose passages about the joy and sadness love can bring in a historical setting.

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