After The Red Circle
and Léon Morin, Priest
, today I introduce you to another Jean-Pierre Melville
's movie: Army Of Shadows / L'Armée Des Ombres
Released in 1969, Army Of Shadows
is, after Le Silence De La Mer
(1949) and Léon Morin, Priest
(1961), the third movie directed by Melville
which takes place during the Occupation of France during World War II. A time Jean-Pierre Melville
knows very well having been himself a member of the Résistance during that time. "Melville" was indeed the surname he took when he arrived in London in 1943, in tribute to Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick
. His real name was Jean-Pierre Grumbach.
As soon as the novel "L'Armée Des Ombres" has been released by Joseph Kessel
in 1943, Melville
was interrested about adapting it to cinema. It took him more than 25 years to realize his wish. Here is what I said to an interview then:
Jean Pierre Melville wrote:
"je l'ai porté en moi 25 ans et 14 mois exactement. Il fallait que je le fasse et que je le fasse maintenant, complétement dépassionné, sans le moindre relent de cocorico. C'est un morceau de ma mémoire, de ma chair" "I've carried it for exactly 25 years and 14 months. I had to do it now, heat totally taken out, without the slightest stench of cocorico(*). It's a piece of my memory, of my flesh" (*)"cocorico" is translated in english by "cock-a-doodle-doo": the rooster's song (the rooster being the emblem for France)
Army Of Shadows
takes place in 1942 and follows the dialy activities of a French Résistance group. But in Army Of Shadows
, the Résistants are not the adventurous, enlighted young heroes we are often to see in Cinema. No, in Army Of Shadows
they are common people, common people who are not driven by a especially revolutionary mind, political convictions or philosophical ideal. They do what they do because they have to, because they can't stand the Occupation and simply cannot "deal with it". They just have to work against it in a way or another. They then enter in the clandestine world of Résistance and then have to deal with the constant fear of being taken by the enemy; knowing that this could happen with a simple police raid or because of one of their members' betrayal; knowing that even they could be tortured and brought to the breakpoint where they might betray their owns(this betrayal calling a definitive sanction by the Résistance). They know their limits and learn to push them a little bit farer day by day.
None is unconscious of the dangers and of their own weakness. With many fixed plans which reinforce the impact of the travelling, with some astonishing closeups on the actors eyes through which we see soo much, with a great mastering of the time, with the deliberate choice of not giving any name of any german soldier and therefore increasing the perception of the Occupant as a single entity, the discret but nevertheless obvious allusions to Vichy's government which prevent us to forget this "veil entity" go farer than the single german uniforms, ... Jean-Pierre Melville
manages to make the audience clearly percieves the amazing tensions these men are dealing with. The doubts and the fear which constantly persecute them. The audiences clearly sees what finally make these ordinary people become true heroes. The audiences also sees what were the true main tasks of the Résistance: mostly providing informations to the allies, organizing ralliement between the different unorganized faction, arming them and training them with all the logistic problems that implies, ..., and keeping secrets may it be at the cost of his life.
During the shouting of Army Of Shadows
the tensions between him and Lino Ventura
had growed so much that the two of them we're not anymore speaking to each other, only communicating through their assistants. Maybe it is anyway this contained wrath which has given Lino Ventura
this aura, the role of Philippe Gerbier being without any doubt one of his very very best among an already amazing actor's career. And the other actors are all as good with a special mention to Simone Signoret
who manages with an amazing gaze to make all the tensions grows to their paroxysm, summarizing all about what makes them doomed heroes.
Army Of Shadows / L'Armée Des Ombres
is for sure one of the very best movies of Jean-Pierre Melville
, and without any doubt, one of the most clever and brilliant movies about the Résistance during World War II. Getting rid of all the heroic stuff of the usual action movies, Melville
manages to make his characters more real than all the others we've been used to see. The fact is, being more real, these characters do appear a lot more heroic than all the rest. I can't give this movie another mark than 6/6
as it is a masterpiece which all should see once, just to refresh our minds about this dark period of our history and its real heroes. Chevvie
EDIT: thanks to Rawhide I just add a technical fic for the movie
Armée des ombres, L'
(1969) Director: Jean-Pierre Melville Genre:
Drama / War TagLine: Runtime:
136 min / Spain:140 min / UK:145 min Country:
France / Italy Language:
Color (Eastmancolor) SoundMix:
Finland:K-16 / Spain:18 / Sweden:15 / UK:AA (original rating) / UK:AA (1978) / UK:12A (re-rating) (2005) Cast: