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25 November 2015

Un long dimanche de fiancailles (2004)

Un long dimanche de fiançailles/A Very Long Engagement (2004) is a French romantic war film, co-written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and starring Audrey Tautou. It is a fictional tale about a young woman's desperate search for her fiance who might have been killed during World War I. It was based on a novel of the same name, written by Sebastien Japrisot, first published in 1991.

Audrey Tautou in Un long dimanche de fiancailles (2004)
French postcard by Warner Bros, France / Tapioca Films / TF1 Films Production. Poster by Laurent Lufroy. Photo: Bruno Calvo. Publicity still for Un long dimanche de fiançailles/A Very Long Engagement (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2004) with Audrey Tautou as Mathilde.

Manech's Marrying Mathilde


Un long dimanche de fiançailles/A Very Long Engagement (2004) tells the romantic story of Mathilde (Audrey Tautou), a young woman who relentless searches for her fiance Manech (Gaspard Ulliel) during World War I.

Near the Somme, five French soldiers are convicted of self-mutilation in order to escape military service. They are condemned to face near certain death in the no man's land between the French and German trench lines. It appears that all of them were killed in a subsequent battle.

Mathilde, the fiancee of one of the soldiers, refuses to give up hope and begins to uncover clues as to what actually took place on the battlefield. Her task is not made any easier for her due to a bout with polio as a child. She is all the while driven by the constant reminder of what her fiance had carved into one of the bells of the church near their home, MMM for Manech's Marrying Mathilde (actually in French: Manech aime Mathilde = Manech Loves Mathilde).

With the help of a private investigator, she attempts to find out what happened to her fiance. Along the way, she discovers the brutally corrupt system used by the French government to deal with those who tried to escape the front. She also discovers the stories of the other men who were sentenced to the no man's land as a punishment.

The story is told both from the point of view of the fiancee in Paris and the French countryside—mostly Brittany—of the 1920s, and through flashbacks to the battlefield.

Eventually Mathilde finds out her fiance is alive, but he suffers from amnesia. He fails to identify even his adoptive mother. Seeing Mathilde, Manech seems to be oblivious of her. However, he still expresses concern for her when he notices her polio stricken legs, asking her "does it hurt when you walk ?" as he did when they first met. At this, Mathilde sits on the garden chair silently watching Manech with tears in her eyes and a smile on her lips.

Gaspard Ulliel in Un long dimanche de fiancailles (2004)
French postcard by Warner Bros, France / Tapioca Films / TF1 Films Production. Poster by Laurent Lufroy. Photo: Bruno Calvo. Publicity still for Un long dimanche de fiançailles/A Very Long Engagement (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2004) with Gaspard Ulliel as Manech.

Jean-Paul Rouve in Un long dimanche de fiancailles (2004)
French postcard by Warner Bros, France / Tapioca Films / TF1 Films Production. Poster by Laurent Lufroy. Photo: Bruno Calvo. Publicity still for Un long dimanche de fiançailles/A Very Long Engagement (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2004) with Jean-Paul Rouve as the mailman.

A visual tour de force


Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet had a surprise smash with Amélie (2001), featuring the expressive Audrey Tatou as a whimsical and charming girl-woman in search of love. In his follow-up film, Un long dimanche de fiancailles, Jeunet crafted a moving, often penetrating drama, set during the darkest days of World War I and its immediate aftermath.

Audrey Tatou returned and plays pretty but frail Mathilde, a loner separated from her peers by her disability. She becomes closest friends with Maneche, the son of a lighthouse keeper. Late adolescence brings love and lust, commitment and an engagement. And when Maneche does not return from the war, Mathilde searches fervently for him, steely faithful in a moving and believable way.

Ralph Michael Stein at IMDb: "her search takes her to cities and battlefields. With resort to a child's employment of magical thinking she frequently whispers tests about what will happen in immediate, ordinary circumstances with one result 'proving' for her that Manech is still alive. Tatou makes this self-deception appealing and infinitely sad."

At AllMovie, Derek Armstrong reviews: "Jean-Pierre Jeunet's most sophisticated achievement to date, if not actually his best film, A Very Long Engagement marks the first instance of the director's trademark techniques applied to a story of historical consequence. In addition to possessing Jeunet's usual busy narration and array of interconnected characters, it's also a visual tour de force."

Un long dimanche de fiancailles was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction and the Academy Award for Best Cinematography at the Oscars. The film received five Césars, the French equivalent of the Oscar. Marion Cotillard won the César Award for Best Supporting Actress and Gaspard Ulliel the César for Most Promising Actor.

Audrey Tautou and Jean-Pierre Jeunet at the set of Un long dimanche de fiancailles (2004)
French postcard by Warner Bros, France / Tapioca Films / TF1 Films Production. Poster by Laurent Lufroy. Photo: Bruno Calvo. Publicity still for Un long dimanche de fiançailles/A Very Long Engagement (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2004). Audrey Tautou and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet at the set.


Trailer. Source: Geschiedenis Beleven (YouTube).

Sources: Derek Armstrong (AllMovie), Ralph Michael Stein (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

Good film and beautiful cards