View Full Version : French Television Series: Un Village Francais

27-01-16, 18:07
I've just watched the first two seasons of this series, and in my opinion this is one of the best recreations of what it was like in German occupied Europe during World War II that I've ever seen, and I've probably seen most of them, and I've heard stories of this time from family members and neighbors all my life.

It's excellently filmed and acted, but more importantly it's extremely subtle and astute in its portrayal of the moral complexities involved, and the variability of human behavior on both sides, if there can even be said to be only two sides. Yes, there are obviously evil characters in the film as there were in life (the SD commander), and it certainly doesn't attempt to whitewash history and portray the occupation as benign in any way, but the doctrinaire and rigid Communist cell leader is hardly a hero and role model, and there was greed, betrayal, and cowardice aplenty in the native population. In other words, people were people, then as now.

The depiction of the moral dilemmas in which local native authorities found themselves is very thought provoking, as in addition to the obviously ethically bankrupt opportunists there were genuinely sincere people trying to act for the best. At what point did their compromises lead them into complicity?

The series also raises some uncomfortable questions: how much moral, not to mention physical courage do most people possess; how long can civil order survive in these kinds of situations; what do these particular kinds of stresses do to marriage relationships, to children etc.?

If I have a criticism it has to do with the character of the Mayor's wife. Her repeated see sawing between one lover and another, even the horrific and horrifying and loathsome SD officer (how any woman could have found him sexually alluring is beyond me) and her husband, her alternating between being a devoted mother to abandoning her child, and her sainted husband's tolerance of the situation for so long was just totally unbelievable to me. I don't know if it was the fault of the script or the acting (Audrey Fleurot), but I just didn't buy it. Of course, it might be me. :)

27-01-16, 18:40
I don't know the serie.
Afaik there was not much resistance in France against Nazi Germany, but after war the Frenchmen themselves created the myth of a couragious and well-organised resistance. All at once it seemed like every Frenchman had participated in it.

27-01-16, 19:25
For those interested in the actual history of the movement, this Wiki article provides, I think, a balanced portrayal based on the many books and articles written about the subject. An estimate of 2-10% of the population having any involvement seems about right, with 2% probably being closer to the reality in terms of people in active cells on a day to day basis. I don't think the Italian situation is totally analogous, because there, for one thing, it very much depended on the area. Provinces and even regions within provinces where there had been sizable Communist and Anarchist populations before the war had very high levels of involvement, to the extent that certain rural areas were actually partisan zones, and it required entire SS groups aided by regular Wehrmacht troops to root them out, which led to mass civilian massacres. The same happened in industrial Italian cities like Torino, where Communist led strikes closed the factories.

Of course, it's easy for people who have never been in this situation to imagine how easy it must have been to make decisions that in most cases led to torture and death.

Ed. All of that said, this was not France's finest hour. Her record is worse than that of other countries which were actually ruled by Fascist governments. What is particularly troubling is that there was no resistance on the part of French police to participating in the round-ups of Jews. Not only that, but in Paris French citizens watched as vulnerable old people, women and children were marched to the Velodrome d'Hiver and left there to perish in unimaginable circumstances until the remainder were sent to the death camps. This isn't the France I know and admire.

19-05-16, 16:30
I really can't recommend this series enough. I'm in the middle of the 5th season and I'm still riveted by it. It's extraordinarily good in my opinion, even though it's increasingly heartbreaking. Too many good people are dying. Even though they're doing a superlative job of humanizing two of the most evil characters, the SD commander and Marchetti, the chief of police, I will be incensed if they don't get justice.

In the U.S. it's available through mhzchoice, and probably through other outlets as well. I don't know about Europe.

17-02-18, 02:35
Just saw the last episode of the seventh and last season.

It was my least favorite. For one thing it felt very rushed. I think the series was so expensive that there just wasn't enough money to go on, and so they had to bring all the story lines into the present, which was impossible to do as well as they had done the prior seasons.

For another, it was too realistic, and by that I mean that it played out as it played out in Italy. The good didn't triumph. A lot of people didn't get happy endings. A lot of blood and tears were shed for what can seem like very small gains and a lot of forgetfulness. So, it left me both sad and depressed.

I know this isn't the way to sell a series, but honestly it was so superlatively done, so true to historic, period detail, so engaging, so touching, so wise in what it shows of good people and bad people and those in between, and how three dimensional and "real" they are, that I just can't recommend it enough.

The last time I felt this way about a tv series was with La Meglio Gioventu'.

If you can get access, watch it.