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About Me:Hi I’m Nadege and I study French at the University of Leeds, and I have just completed my third year abroad in Montpellier studying literature and enjoying the sunshine! I love art; painting and being creative, as well as photography and baking. Travelling is my favourite hobby at the moment; experiencing the French language and culture. I hope you enjoy reading some of my articles!
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, a well-known French film director since the late 20th century, co-wrote and directed the film ‘Un long dimanche de fiançailles’ which was released in 2004, preceding his hugely successful film ‘Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain’ and inspired by the novel by Sébastien Japrisot. The film is set in 1919/20 and has flashbacks to the 1917 Battle of the Somme as the narrator, Mathilde, searches to find the truth about whether her fiancé is alive. The serious themes that occur throughout the film are the impact of war and with that develops the themes of memory, solidarity, loss of faith and death. It is also a film largely based on a detective story which unites the past with the present. Another prominent theme is love, which is emphasised by Jeunet by the aesthetics in the film.
The ‘esthétique publicitaire’ is the French term for the aesthetics, and Jeunet uses this to portray the ‘ideal’ life, which is created through a story-book style plot and beauty and harmony are strongly portrayed in the film. Consequently, an unreal atmosphere is created as a result of the use of a strong visual aesthetic. Some may argue that Jeunet’s style purposefully distracts from the serious themes of the film such as the horrors of war, therefore this is a possible criticism of the film.
However, the horrors of war are shown in the film due to the many scenes of war, and the effects war had on the soldiers even after the war had ended, such as shellshock/psychological damage. Additionally, Jeunet uses dull colours such as grey and black to depict the loneliness, hunger and dark times the soldiers were enduring. This said, in the eyes of the audience, we don’t lose hope, and we know that the film could end in tragedy (Manech’s death – Mathilde's fiancé), but we have faith it won’t happen. This therefore does not depict the reality of war. The film shows France as being unaffected by war, when in reality everyday people would have been greatly affected. This is ironic as Jeunet made the film to preserve the memory of the soldiers who fought in the First World War as the last of them were dying…but Jeunet’s version of war is not as realistic. Maybe, the theme of love overrides all the other themes, and this is the reason why the horrors of war aren’t shown as Jeunet's aim may have been to suit a larger target audience.
Additionally, Jeunet uses Mathilde’s character as the narrator, therefore she holds the power in the narrative and Jeunet’s goal is for Mathilde to reveal the truth about her fiancé, promoting the theme of love. Therefore, I believe that Jeunet’s aim was not to create a film with its main focus being war, but instead Jeunet creates a love story set in the Battle of the Somme. As a result, Jeunet creates a film with a beautiful storyline, and although we do see some consequences and horrors of war, the plot is overridden by the theme of love and the visual aesthetics which creates the magical, dream-like plot. This film is a must-see, for those of you interested in war, or simply wanting to see a romantic film, with the ending being a definite tear-jerker! The film is translated into English, and named A Very Long Engagement.