IIM Calcutta

A Very Long Engagement – ‘Never let go’


Poster for 'A very long engagement'By Subhrojyoti Mondal

Rotten Tomatoes rating – 78%
Two Academy Award nominations (Art Direction and Cinematography)
One Golden Globe nomination (Best Foreign Language Film)

This movie has been considered one of the best among Janet’s masterpieces. Category wise it’s a romantic war epic movie, based in Somme, a remote village of post-world war France. A physically challenged girl, Mathilde (Audrey Totou), loses her fiancée Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), in a battle at the ‘No man’s land’ between France and Germany during WWI. Though every single person is convinced of his demise, Mathilde refuses and clings to the last chances of hope that she believes will guide her to her love. Ultimately the movie flows through different interesting incidents to a touching climax.

The exhibition of different colourful interconnected characters mesmerizes the mind of the viewer. Although the central character is the lynchpin of the movie, there are other strong characters like Élodie Gordes (Jodie Foster) who develops an affair with his dead(thought as dead) husband’s best friend; Tina Lombardi, who sacrifices her life to get the revenge unto her lover’s murderers; the humorous detective – the trigger happy sentry, Manech’s friend who tried to kill Mathilde to make her free from her false hope ; all are part and parcel of the movie’s unique attributes.
The art and direction of the movie promotes Romanticism and optimism – which are the integral part of positive thinking and living. It shows a sanctum relationship developing between two children – their development into adulthood and affection tending to love–lovemaking on the roof of the monastery ,engraving ‘MMM’(Manech aimes Mathilde) in their favourite places (especially by Manech when he is about to die in the battlefield). But the best scene is the kissing scene over the top of the lighthouse, where the two children try to feel each other through a glass sheet in between.

The film shows a paradigm transition of traditional French society after the first world war- the frustration and hopelessness of the battle weary soldiers – and their tendency to self-mutilate. The ruthless and ravenous behaviour of the Generals who do not hesitate to risk their soldiers’ lives just for a petty benefit – is depicted really wonderfully.

The cinematography is commendable with fabulous camerawork. The joyous and optimistic moments have been portrayed in vermillion and orange light (at the time of dawn or dusk), and the grimace ones in grey or black – which resonates the viewers’ discretion. The art direction combines Janet’s usual style of busy narration and dystopia.

At last the message the movie conveys – the last fly from Pandora’s Box – Hope. Even after seeing Manech’s grave Mathilde promises to find him-‘Ashes to Ashes, bones to bones ’ – The simile of the albatross trying to fight against the harsh westerlites, against all oddities of nature as if signifies Mathilde’s quest to find her lover. At last her hopes lead her to her love – and the movie ends with
Mathilde watching Manech – ‘I watch it, I watch it….’

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