I was doing the usual Sunday evening 'what to watch on netflix perusal', when I saw a film called 'Suite Française'. About a small, French town under Nazi occupation, called Bussy, the lives of the towns inhabitants are turned upside down by the arrival of soldiers from Berlin. Her husband away at war, a lonely Frenchwoman (Michelle Williams) begins a tentative romance with the refined German soldier (Matthias Schoenaerts) who has taken up residence in her mother-in-law's house.
Suite Française, became a publishing sensation in 2004. Having fled paris in 1940, the jewish writer Irene Nemirovsky relocated to Issy-l’Evêque, where she began her work on a tale of war and peace. After being transported to Auschwitz, Irene died aged just 39. In 1942, her notebooks were given to her daughters, who at the time, believed them to be diaries. It wasn't until the 1990’s that Denise (one of Irene’s daughters) discovered what was known to be the first two of five instalments of Nemirovsky's work.
Amid the intrigues of occupied village life, the love story between Lucile and Bruno wasn’t one of the things I enjoyed the most about the film as a whole. Although Williams and Schoenaerts are undoubtedly talented actors and provided us with leads that led an overall fantastic casting. It serves to remind us that the war was the bigger picture and their love in the grand scheme of things wasn't really important enough. Instead drawing towards the end, we sense the fragility of Madame Angellier with the young jewish girl, Anna. The heroism of Benoît and how brave Madeleine was. The chilling frankness of Kurt Bonnet, also combines to add up bits of different stories, within the same village. That ultimately make up the film as a whole piece of work. Suite Française takes pleasure in wrong-footing our perhaps prejudices and labelling of generic archetypes.
The locations shot in Suite Française, showcases well-chosen locations, from Bussy’s bustling town square, to the hazy forests. Enigmatically shot on a 35mm by renowned cinematographer Eduard Grau. You are entrenched within soft, french lighting. The sense of ‘vintage’ gained from the use of historical shooting locations give you a tangible sense of history as well as a sense of authenticity, reminiscent of ‘Downton Abbey’. So beautifully shot and every little detail accounted for, the sense of ‘world’ continues out of shot, and carries you into the life of a french village.
In the moments, that perhaps coast occasionally throughout the one hour and forty-seven minutes running time. Suite Française, manages to hold onto the somewhat tenderness that the lighting and shooting of the film enables. A sense of poignancy and tenseness is prevalent throughout. The piano theme, in which Bruno proves his character’s capability of having patches of grey. We still aren't quite sure what to think of him. As the audience, we sense there is more to him than meets the eye and even at the ending, we still don't feel we can judge his character wholly. Bruno is a complex character, with the films main storyline of ‘falling in love with the enemy’, we do almost champion the protagonists together. After a tender moment of Bruno explaining he was a composer before the war, we question his morales and what he intends to do. By no means ‘cheesy’ or some trashy romance novel, Suite Francaise serves as a romantic reminder of war, and in itself is a heart-breaking story of ‘what if’. At the end you are left slightly hoping an end-screen pops up with ‘Lucile and Bruno lived happily ever after’, that is not the case, none the less, the ending is bittersweet.
Overall, I would highly recommend Suite Française, The combination of the shooting and the lighting, combined with the subtletey of Williams’ mellow tones, made for a great film. The soundtrack is also unparalleled. Immediately after watching Suite Française, I searched for the music, the tinkling piano is haunting combined with the ending narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would recommend it, if like me you are stuck for something on Netflix, give Suite Française a watch.