A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT(a.k.a. Un long dimanche de fiançailles)
Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
2 hr. 14 min.
Year of Release:
“Never let go”
“A Very Long Engagement,” Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s latest film, begins in the rainy trenches of World War 1. Five soldiers are being led to their execution; they have committed the crime of self-mutilation, which they were all hoping would be seen as an accident and would be their ticket out of the war. The five are thrown over the walls into no-man’s land between the French and German forces, where they will either be killed, freeze, or starve to death.
After the war, we meet Mathilde (Audrey Tautou), a polio-stricken young woman whose fiancé Manech (Gaspard Ulliel) was one of the five soldiers presumably executed for self mutilation. She believes strongly that Manech is still alive, but it is quite possibly the naïve beliefs of a young woman in denial; No one wants to admit their loved one is dead, and because she has never seen and body, and because there was never any real proof he was killed, she continues hoping.
A French soldier who fought with Manech, and who escorted the five to their deaths, contacts Mathilde with some information that she wants. He gives her the last remaining possessions of the five soldiers; He had planned on delivering them himself, but was stricken with an illness which prevented him from it.
She goes through the letters, and photos, and various items, learning more about those who died with her man. In an attempt to contact the people who would have benefited from them, she learns that there may have been one (or possibly more) of the five soldiers who got out of the war alive. Mathilde hires a private investigator to find the soldiers and relatives who may have clues. What he finds is most intriguing and sparks a more intense search for the truth regarding Manech, and the rest of the people in his company, including possible cover-ups by those in charge of the French Troops.
As in his previous film “Amelie,” Jeunet presents a fascinating visual world for us to enjoy. While this film is obviously much more dark than “Amelie,” it still contains elements just a whimsical in the war-torn environment;a dog with intestinal problems, a mailman with a penchant for spraying gravel with his bike. Mathilde believes Manech is alive, but at times must convince herself by making humorous wagers (“If the dog comes in before dinner is called, Manech is alive” and so on).
The film is in subtitles, which is always a turn off for some, but that should not be the determining factor in whether one sees this film. The language in the film is rather mild, particularly for a war-themed film. The content which most would find offensive is the films violence, and sexual content. The violence is typical graphic war violence (bodies being blown apart, people shooting themselves in places to get out of fighting). The sexual content involves various prostitutes who are seen throughout the film. There is some rather brief rear nudity, one male (sexual) and one female (non-sexual). The sex scenes we see are brief, but very graphic in movement, and may surprise and offend some. Overall, it is an adult-themed film, so parents would be wise to leave the children home.
Filmicly, “A Very Long Engagement” is a gorgeous film to behold. The plot is a bit muddled at first, mainly I think because of the many characters and subtitles, but it smooths out nicely before too long. I wasn’t expecting the film to become a murder-conspiracy mystery towards the second half, but it added an intriguing element, and made for a strong last few acts. The performances are great, especially Tautou, who we could watch in anything, and gets the right mix of sadness, despair, and whimsy all at the same time. The soundtrack for the film is wonderful and tense and keeps us on the edge of our seats for the last hour or so; it’s the kind of music you hear in a movie trailer promoting a thriller and assists the film greatly, as if it needed any help.
“A Very Long Engagement” is an engaging film, but Christians need to be cautious in viewing. The sex and violence will turn away some, and rightfully so I suppose. But for those who can stand it, “A Very Long Engagement” may be worth watching and will stay in your head for a long time after.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Extreme