DVD review: Resistance and repression in ‘Un Village Français'

The latest in the French television series is set in the summer of 1943.

Un Village Français, Season 4
Madman Entertainment
RRP $49.99

The latest in the French television series Un Village Français is set in the summer of 1943. The Germans announce the Service du travail obligatoire (STO), which was the forced enlistment and deportation of hundreds of thousands of French workers to Nazi Germany to work as forced labour.

The young men of Villeneuve have to make decisions about their future and a small band of them head into the forest to live in freedom and train as partisans. But they soon find the hunger, cold and boredom overwhelming.

In the village, the Resistance grows bolder. Despite an attempt on his life, the new mayor, Chassagne, makes every effort to support the STO and hunt the guerrillas. Repression increases day by day.

The Resistance has been active in killing German soldiers but the Nazis have begun taking locals as hostages and executing them

As with much of the series, these events lead to strained relationships between the townspeople, the local gendarmes, the occupying Germans and the Gestapo.

There are splits in the community between collaboration and resistance, protection of oneself and family as opposed to working against the occupation.

Strange and strained relationships develop within families where non-Jews are married to Jews and where collaborators are neighbours of resistance fighters.

This series raises a number of issues around the conduct of war with Antoine and his group having to discuss what they should do with a wounded German – to kill him or get a doctor for him.

Absence of war clichés
The series does not go in for the normal clichés of most war movies. There are the occasional brief attacks on Germans, a few cursory speeches about France, liberation and democracy.

There is the confused reality of the black market and adjustment to foreign military rule. The viewer is continually aware of how the occupation affects ordinary individuals in their daily life.

The previous mayor, Daniel Larcher, is still around and various events impinge on him – not least the fact that his wife is living with the senior German officer, who is a morphine addict.

There are also elements that have relevance for today when people raise the issue of anti-Semitism with one woman expressing the view that the Jews had killed Christ.

The series is an exceptional portrait of life under occupation and the relationships between the Germans, the Vichy government and the citizens.

It is also an interesting study of the workings of the mid-20th century small town. It has also allowed the designers to have a great time in recreating some of the elegant women’s fashions of the time.

Each of the series consists of four disks with a combined running total of 600 minutes.

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