Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Original title: Le Retour De Martin Guerre
France, 1982. S.F.P.C., Production Marcel Dassault, France 3. Screenplay by Jean-Claude Carriere, Daniel Vigne, Natalie Zemon Davis, based on the novel The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis. Cinematography by Andre Neau. Produced by Daniel Vigne. Music by Michel Portal. Production Design by Alain Negre. Costume Design by Anne-Marie Marchand. Film Editing by Denise de Casablanca. Academy Awards 1983. National Board of Review Awards 1983. New York Film Critics Awards 1983.
Every once in a while you get a film whose various elements are so beautifully in tune with each other that watching it is akin to listening to a Beethoven symphony. This film’s performances are felt deep in the soul, the dialogue (co-written by justifiably idolized scribe Jean-Claude Carriere) is poetic without being impossible, the cinematography looks like a classic Vermeer painting come to life and the production and costume design are authentic to a fault, everything as harmonious to the eye as the aforementioned musical genius was to the ear. Gerard Depardieu, still young and reckless, returns to his 16th-century village in the French countryside after having abandoned his wife (Nathalie Baye) eight years earlier to seek adventure. They immediately consummate a marriage that was previously passionless and is now brimming over with affection, but their idyll is threatened when suspicions begin to arise that he is an impostor. The court trial that results is the reason that this story, based on fact, made it into the history books as one of the most curious cases to take place in French rural history. Depardieu is scintillating with each gesture, while Baye, who is normally a natural at playing fiery, willful characters, somehow manages to create so much subtle strength and grace out of a woman who has grown accustomed to submission. A superb motion picture, remade (badly) as Sommersby with Jodie Foster and Richard Gere.