January 02, 2005

A Very Long Engagement – A Movie Review

A Long Movie, But Worth Every Minute
By Fred H. Arm
Both the director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and the star, Audrey Tautou of the hit French film, “Amélie” are back again in a totally different type of love story in “A Very Long Engagement”. If you remember and loved “Amélie”, you will also recognize some of the other actors from that picture.

As the wretchedness of World War I draws to a close, our heroine’s heroic struggle is about to commence. Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) has received word that her fiancé Manech is one of five wounded soldiers who has been court-martialed and ordered to be put to death. Unwilling to accept that her beloved Manech has been lost forever, Mathilde embarks on an extraordinary search to discover the ultimate fate of her lover. At every juncture, she receives a different heartbreaking account on how Manech has spent his last days. Still she pushes on with a determined hope to find him or at least uncover word of him.
With steadfast faith, strengthened by hope and a stubbornly cheerful disposition, Mathilde follows the results of her investigation to its surprising conclusion, all the while convincing those who might help her and ignoring those who will not. As she delves deeper and deeper towards the truth of the fate of the five condemned men and their brutal punishment, she is drawn down into the vortex of the horrors of war and the indelible mark it leaves on the lives it has affected. Just when it seems that all hope is lost, another clue or lead presents itself and a hopeful Mathilde is off on a tangent of her mission once more.

Although two and one half hours long, this film seems to fly by, assisted by the clever techniques of the director Jeunet. As he did so brilliantly in “Amélie”, his mini-flashbacks uniquely explain the details of each segment of Mathilde’s quest for Manech as the story unfolds. He was able to capture the precise mood and realism of the despondent troops lying exhausted in the trenches at the front lines. One can almost taste the foul, musty air of the waterlogged bunkers and trenches. His distinctive technique of occasional comic relief never seems to be forced or out of character for the actors or the scene.

Just to see Audrey Tautou act and flash those adorable innocent big brown eyes is by itself worth the price of admission. Jeunet brilliantly weaves every scene into a fine tapestry of hope, adventure, revenge, horror, and humor that never seems to bog down or overwhelm the audience. A small, yet significant part played by the talented American actress, Jodie Foster is quite engaging and surprising, given that the movie is all spoken in French.
It is brilliantly written as an adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Sebastien Japrisot and adapted for the screen by Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant. “A Very Long Engagement” is a film of Academy Award stature that will live in our hearts forever. Don’t miss it.

Posted by fredarm at January 2, 2005 09:14 PM