The menace of war is unceasing, or even eternal. To be more precise, La France is more a movie about the menace of war than about the war itself, so I could have set it in the present. But I wanted, from a historical point of view, to deal with the question of desertion, which was huge in France in 1917. I filmed only the menace, and this menace is only our present, and the desertion is still, in our present history, 'needles and pins,' to quote the Ramones covering The Searchers.
Set in 1917 and made 90 years later Serge Bozon’s La France 2007 is a strikingly original take on WW1 and the persistent menace of conflict. This unclassifiable film explores the legacy of desertion and cinemas response to war through a hybrid of war movies and musicals. Former film critic Bozon’s La France follows a soldier’s wife (played by Sylvie Testud) who towards the end of WW1 disguises herself as a man and sets off to find her husband. She falls in with a band of deserters who spontaneously perform original pop songs written by Benjamin Esdraffo (aka Fugu) on homemade instruments throughout the film. Beautifully shot by Céline Bozon (the director’s sister) the film takes place in a suspended magical twilight pairing the romantic search of the lead with the melancholy fate of the deserting soldiers, battle scared survivors struggling to exist outside of the war. Bozon was the winner of the prestigious Prix Jean Vigo in 2007 that recognises a young filmmaker of exceptional promise.
Print courtesy of Institut Français.
This screening is part of a series related to the exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography that features key films that question how memory and conflict are explored in cinema. Curated by George Clark.