DVD
The Sorrow and the Pity

Fremantle Home Entertainment & Arrow Films
RRP: 24.99
FCD175
Certificate: E
Available 18 October 2004


An epic account of the occupation of small French industrial city Clermont-Ferrand by the Germans in World War II, director Marcel Ophus combines interviews and archive footage to explore the reality of occupation. Speaking to Resistance fighters, collaborators, spies, farmers, government officials, writers, artists and veterans, it is perhaps the most gripping and inspiring portrait of how ordinary people actually conducted themselves under extraordinary circumstances...

The Sorrow and the Pity (or Le Chagrin et la Pitie) has been hailed as one of the most moving and influential films of our time. This Oscar nominated classic by Marcel Ophus has continued to garner international acclaim since its release in 1969 and it's not difficult to see why.

From the opening shot, at a (then) modern German wedding, to the closing scene with Maurice Chevalier, the director offers a fair and balanced account of the occupation of France from the point of view of men, both ordinary and influential during the war and from all three sides - France, Germany and England. Sadly, there was very little in the way of female representation and, in the interest of balance, it would have been interesting to have heard the views of a few of the woman - especially in the Resistance - who were affected.

There are a number of confusing scenes in this documentary - most of which are to do with translation. The very first scene has a German wedding, which is translated into France and then English subtitles are then added. There are also numerous occasions where English interviewees are dubbed over and then English subtitles are added so that we can understand what they are saying. But, possibly the most bizarre interview is with Denis Rake, a British Secret Agent in occupied France. The first half of his interview is conducted in French with a French interviewer and the second half is conducted in English with an English interviewer. However, there is no French dubbing.

There were also parts of the war that are not so well remembered in Britain, and for good reason, which are uncovered here. I doubt many of us have heard of the slaughter at Mers-el-Kebir. Here, 1600 French sailors were killed by the British Navy as we attempted to commandeer the French Navy. The British shelled French boats and, it's revealed, that the majority of the French sailors through that they were casting off in order to join the British boats. Not our finest hour!

There are also a number of stand out bizarre moments, the most notable being a public information film designed to encourage the French to breed rabbits during the war - for meat and to turn into rabbit fur garments.

Extras include a retrospective NFT interview with Ophuls, notes on the making of, and full interviews list and details.

Anyone who is interested in hearing history from those who experienced it first hand - from farmers to the originator of the French Resistance - should get a hold of this ground breaking, historical work.

Darren Rea

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£18.74 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
£19.99 (MVC.co.uk)
   
£17.99 (Powerplaydirect.com)

All prices correct at time of going to press.