When I got this 2012 DVD from the library, I did not realise that it is in French. Then I thought: well, since I’ve already borrowed it, and the tagline is interesting (“A story of love, war and the secrets of a generation”), I might as well watch it to see how much French I can understand (I took a short course during my undergraduate days) and see if I enjoy it as much as I did the last French film I watched some years ago.
This is also the official selection of the New York Jewish Fim Festival and the Santa Barbara International film Festival.
Anne (Sylvie Testud) is in her mid-30s, and her mother died three months ago. The shock was brutal. Her father was sick and took everything out on Anne and her sister Tania (Julie Ferrier).
Anne and her sister take three days to empty the house. They discover old photographs and letters that make them look more closely at their parents’ life after the concentration camps of World War II.
Anne and Tania’s parents were married on 23 Oct 1942; their father Michel (Benoit Magimel) was 31 and their mother Lena (Melanie Thierry) was 22. Old family records show that their father was actually named Mordehai at birth, and his parents Abraham Korsky and Tanba Goldhaberg.
Anne cannot forget her father’s look when he talked of his wife, or the smile when she thinks of her mother. His love had remained constant despite the existence of a mysterious ‘uncle’ with whom Lena was smittened.
They are a family and they create their own story where there’s room or where there’s light. The children grow up as best as they can between unspoken words and unanswered questions.
The movie deals with the political, social and personal consequences of monumental historical events (WWII & Holocaust). The central story about Anne’s discovery of the family secret shows one woman’s (her mother’s) struggle to live the life she should versus the life she wants. It is only after her (Lena’s) death that Anne sees her outside her maternal role, and as a young woman caught between a stable but uninteresting family life and an unexpected and passionate affair with no clear future.
The beautiful scenerey, especially of the French countryside is a feast for the eyes. So are the orchestral music and French music in the background. I would have enjoyed the film better if I had understood more French or if the language used is English.