"Another superb movie from one of the best directors in the game"
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s adaptation of the Sébastien Japrisot novel A Very Long Engagement is yet another brilliant piece of filmmaking from one of the world’s most talented directors. It is a superb movie that intricately weaves a tale of romance and mystery set against the brutality of war.The beginning of the movie is set in the horrendous frontline battle between France and Germany in Somme during World War I. So atrocious and frightening are the conditions in this trench warfare that five French soldiers decide it is better to self inflict shooting injuries in a hope to be sent home than to continue fighting in this bloody war. Unfortunately this does not work out as planned and a court martial sentences them to death but rather than facing the firing line, they are forced to fend for themselves and face certain demise in the no mans land between the French trenches and the enemy line. None of these soldiers are reported to have survived.
Manech (Gaspard Ulliel) was on of these soldiers and back at home his fiancé, Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) refuses to believe that he has perished and decides to go on a quest to find out the truth. This leads her on a complex journey of conspiracies, military cover ups and various versions of what may have happened to her beloved Manech. But no matter how devastating each story she is told, in her heart she feels that he is still alive and her search goes on. Her investigation sees her meeting a number of eccentric characters as well as a lethally bitter femme fatale, all of whom may lead her to Manech. The film also flashes back a number of times to show how Mathilde and Manech first met as children right up to when they fell in love and became engaged. It also visits the battlefields in gory detail, so be warned it is quite graphic in these scenes.
A Very Long Engagement is simply gorgeous to look at thanks to the wizardry of Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie) who uses digitally enhanced camerawork to a spectacular effect. The scenery and set design are also breathtaking and the costuming is exquisite. All of the acting is flawless with Audrey Tautou delivering the goods again and Jodie Foster in a cameo that sees her speaking perfect French.Although it is not quite the masterpiece that was Amelie, it is not very far behind and is still an outstanding piece of cinema. Had this wartime romance/mystery been adapted and made in Hollywood, it would have been an over emotional and sappy affair but thankfully Jeunet avoids all the clichés that a story of this ilk would normally attract and delivers an always intriguing and visually stunning film.