The Null Device

A Very Long Engagement

I finally got around to seeing Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement, at one of the few cinemas still screening it. It's a beautiful film; in some ways, it's not unlike Amélie, only with all the cuteness taken out, and set against the grim backdrop of trench warfare during World War 1; Audrey Tautou's character in both films could well be the same person born at different times, though where in Amélie she whimsically bimbles across Montmartre, here, she desperately searches for the fate of her fiancé, who was sentenced to death in the trenches and believed by all to have been killed, clutching onto hope by trying to divine the truth looking for "omens". Along the way in her Quixotic quest, more of what happened is uncovered.

Once again, this is not a cute or whimsical film; the trench warfare sequences show the war in an authentically brutal light. Nonetheless, Jeunet's usual signatures (creative use of colour-grading, from the golden Breton countryside to the watercoloured-sepia-photograph effect in other shots, flashbacks, and the occasional mechanical/time-and-motion sequence reminiscent of Delicatessen or The City of Lost Children). The reconstructions of Paris in 1920 were quite impressive; I got the feeling that, in some ways, Amélie and its digitally-cleaned-up Montmartre was a rehearsal for the making of this film. I hope that when the DVD comes out, it will come with a feature describing exactly how the film was made.

The ending was quite strong too, though I won't say any more about that. Anyway, I strongly recommend this film.

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