A Very Long Engagement

Synopsis: Five desperate French soldiers during The Battle of the Somme shoot themselves, either by accident or with purpose, in order to be invalided back home. Having been "caught" a court-martial convenes and determines punishment to be banishment to No Man's Land with the objective of having the Germans finish them off. In the process of telling this tale each man's life is briefly explored along with their next of kin as Methilde, fiancée to one of the men, tries to determine the circumstances of her lover's death. This task is not made any easier for her due to a bout with polio as a child. Along the way she discovers the heights and depths of the human soul.
Director(s): Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures
  Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 17 wins & 33 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
133 min

A VERY LONG ENGAGEMEN Saturday the 6th of January, 1917,

five condemned soldiers

were escorted to Bouchavesnes

at the Front in the Somme.

Watch out for the wire!

The first,

once cheerful and adventurous,

wore the tag number 2124.

He was drafted from the Seine area.

On his feet were boots,

taken from a dead German.

Before becoming 2124,

he was known as Bastoche

and was hooked on a pretty redhead,

a certain Vronique Passavant.

He was a carpenter.

Taking a break from his woodwork,

they'd go for a beer

at Little Louis' bar,

in Golden Hand St.

He'd taken his boots from an enemy

who no longer needed them.

Stuffed with straw or newspaper,

they replaced his old clodhoppers.

He was court-martialed

for self-mutilation.

Gunpowder had been found

on his wounded hand.

He faced the death sentence.

Watch out for the wire!

The second soldier

was tag number 4077,

also from near the Seine.

He was a welder

for the State Railways, in Bagneux.

His name was Francis Gaignard,

nicknamed Six-Sous.

He knew the poor build the canons

of their own destruction,

but it's the rich who sell them.

He tried

to explain it to the troops,

but he wasn't a good speaker.

And cheap wine,

poverty's best friend,

deadened the soldiers' eyes,

making it difficult

to get through to them.

Number 1 81 8 was surely the bravest

and the toughest of them all.

He had once

killed a fellow officer...

an officer who kicked the dead.

Get up!

You swines!

You lazy cowards!

You! Get up!

Attack! Attack!

You! Get going!

No one ever found out.

Benot Notre Dame was a farmer

from Dordogne.

One August morning,

they came to get him at his farm

and sent him off on a train.

Watch out for the wire!

The telephone wire is the only link

to the land of the living.

A flimsy wire, their only chance

for President Poincar's pardon.

Even if the only one

to still believe in it

is him.

Number 7328, recruited in Corsica.

Angel Bassignano.

According to all who'd known him,

he was no angel at all.

He was a liar, a cheat, a show-off,

a sneak and a troublemaker.

Before all this,

Tina Lombardi worked as his whore.

He'd received a 5-year sentence for

an affair of either love or honour,

depending on who he was talking to.

lt was, in fact, a conflict

between village pimps.

Summer 1916,

common-law criminals were enlisted

to beef up regiments

melted in the fires at Verdun.

They gave him the choice.

It's been shitting shells

round here!

No, it's been rather quiet.

Who are those for?

Well, actually...

you'll be attacking tomorrow.

We're getting a head start.

Watch out for the wire!

The fifth was a "Cornflower",

the nickname for the class of '17.

He was five months shy of 20.

These days, everything scared him.

French canons short-firing,

the wind that heralded

the mustard gas attacks,

executions to set an example.

He hadn't been like that before,

quite the opposite,

braving storms as he helped

lighthouse keepers.

And then came one shell too many.

There you go... The winning ticket

back to your fiance.

The ticket for a court-martial.

Turn a blind eye, Sarge.

He's been through enough.

They could execute him.

- Be human for once.

- Shut up!

Please, Sarge!

Shut up!

The first time

Mathilde and Manech made love,

he fell asleep,

his hand on her breast.

Each time his wound throbs,

Manech feels Mathilde's heart

in his palm.

Each beat brings her closer to him.

lf Manech were dead,

Mathilde would know.

Since the death notice,

she stubbornly holds on to her

intuition, like to a flimsy wire.

She never gets discouraged.

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Sébastien Japrisot

Sébastien Japrisot (4 July 1931 – 4 March 2003) was a French author, screenwriter and film director, born in Marseille. His pseudonym was an anagram of Jean-Baptiste Rossi, his real name. Japrisot has been nicknamed "the Graham Greene of France". Famous in the Francophony, he is little known in the English-speaking world, though a number of his novels have been translated into English and have been made into films. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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