A French Village / Un Village Français
4 DVD set | 587 minutes
Un Village Francais, now in its fifth series has been following the course of the war in occupied France since 1939. Each season has traced one year of the effects of the German occupation on the residents of the small town of Villaneuve.
This season is set in 1944: Paris has been liberated, the Germans are losing the war and are beginning to leave occupied France.
In the continuing saga of the citizens of this small town of Villaneuve, situated in the southern section of France close to the Swiss border, the village doctor, Daniel Larcher (Robin Renucci), who was previously the mayor, and the other major players have to deal with the various elements of the occupation – German army, the SS, the local police force, the right-wing militia, as well as the Free French resistance.
Not far off are the advancing American forces who are already liberating nearby towns. They make contact with the local partisans but the liberation of Villaneuve is not a major priority for them.
Much of the focus of this season is on planning for the future. The Germans try to seek the “safety” of Germany, the police force try to do deals with the partisans the partisans have to decide whether to fight or wait for the Americans while many of the police, and militia have to decide what their future will be depending on the extent to which they have been collaborators. This sets in train a number of issues around the morality of their actions and the excuse of merely following orders, and what they believe constitutes the reality of the French nation and their responsibilities to it.
Larcher’s ex-wife, Hortense (Audrey Fleurot), attempts to flee to Switzerland with her German SS commander lover, Heinrich (Richard Semmel) and she eventually must face the townspeople for her actions.
Marie (Nade Dieu), married to the town’s school principal, Bériot (François Loriquet) has a lesbian liaison, which she regrets, and watches her previous lover, the gravely-wounded German soldier, Kurt (Samuel Theis), die under the hand of Bériot. The businessman-collaborator, Raymond Schwartz (Thierry Godard), proves himself a French patriot returning at the time of liberation to act at Prefect.
Some of the partisans are discovered and some are executed. The Jews have mostly been deported, although the conflicted head of the village police force, Jean Marchetti (Nicholas Gob) manages to save his Jewish lover and her child from slaughter. Fortunately for them, the arrival of the American forces marks the beginning of the end of Vichy Government and the German occupation.
The series is outstanding, in terms of creating the environment of Villaneuve, the landscape of the surrounding farmlands the forests and lakes.
The writing, directing and acting has been remarkable in recreating the period giving a sense of the day-to-day life of the town as well as the impact of the occupation on the lives of the ordinary French citizens.
That the characters are not all black and white gives a real sense of authenticity. Just as in the previous series man y of the strong characters and sympathetic characters are killed, often brutally providing emotional shocks which are rarely be found in most war movies.
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