1 May 2007 | dbdumonteil
F.... the war !
Critically and commercially speaking "Histoire du Caporal" was greeted with a poor reception.Retrospection illumines different aspects ,unavailable,contextually,to critics of the time of issue.After all,it was Rambo's time ! What? A deserter's story?Even the (champagne) socialist France would not want to hear a coward's tale.
The film is divided into two parts:the war and the desertion.The choice of a peasant as the hero is not gratuitous;the farmers are said to be good soldiers,"the blood tribute" is sacred,they make it a point of honor to serve their country.But not this one.When he reads the papers,he knows everything is brainwashing.But the church bells have rung:WW1 which will put an end to wars (sic) has begun.
The war scenes are ,admittedly ,the weakest link .But the furlough brings excellent scenes: the fat shirker in the train,the guys in the bistro who claim to give pieces of advice whereas they are far from the front which they do not know.
The corporal deserts.He lives in the Provence mountains ,surviving wintry wilderness,hunting and fishing,in a Rousseauesque way.The nature,the buzz (which we heard during the cast and credits ),the magnificent landscape shows Robert Enrico's first effort's influence "Au coeur de la Vie" (which included the celebrated "occurence at owl creek bridge").If it weren't for the coming of a gendarme (which gives a very strong scene:"do you wanna know what war is?" says the corporal,as he begins to shoot all around the cop),we would forget everything about the war THEY are waging with their human cattle.
Even more absorbing: the article about the battles the soldier reads in his cave is written in the past historic ("Passé Simple" ) The use of the perfect tense ("Passé Composé" )would have created a connection between the deserter and his compatriots.The historic past tense depicts events which seem to come from another world.
Although inevitably too slow,"Histoire du Caporal" is definitely a movie to rediscover.