A Very Long Engagement – Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2004)

Very Long Engagement

It’s entirely the fault of movies like A Very Long Engagement that this blog lies dormant most of the time. Who wants to write about a film like this?

There are movies that I call “darlings” of the public. Everyone goes “oh” and “ah” and “oh so wonderful” just upon hearing the title. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Améelie is one of them, and – not surprisingly starring the same actress, Audrey Taoutou – Un long dimanche de fiançailles is another of those “darlings”. The fact is that most of the time these are precisely the movies I cannot stand. I watched Un long dimanche de fiançailles for the second time, hoping I’d succumb to its charm – but that didn’t happen. On the very contrary. I liked it even less. Why though? I’m not sure. It’s particularly sad because there aren’t all that many WWI movies.

A Very Long Engagament tells the story of two young lovers separated by WWI. Mathilde and Manech fall in love just before the war breaks out. They are still almost children. Both are outsiders. She because she is limping, he because he seems to be a bit simple-minded.

When he doesn’t return from the war, Mathilde swears to find him. It is said that he was court-martialled together with four others. The five men shot themselves in order to be sent home.

Mathilde acts a bit like a PI, interrogating people, following every lead. Although everyone tells her that Manech has been shot, she is convinced that he is still alive. Their connection is strong, she would feel it, if he was dead.

A Very Long Engagement is a typical Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie. His films often look like old sepia-colored photos and have a vintage feel. The trench scenes are not bad and from a purely cinematic point of view it’s a beautiful film but I always have a problem with his characters and find many of them off putting. I would still like to read the book by Japrisot.

Has anyone seen it? Did you like it and if so why?

17 thoughts on “A Very Long Engagement – Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2004)

  1. Guy Savage says:

    If I remember correctly the cinematography was very good but overall it was a quirky film. And then there’s Tautou who’s not a favourite of mine.. A much better WWI film: Life and Nothing But. Have you seen it?

  2. Casey says:

    I saw it. It wasn’t bad but it just sort of bored me. I’m not sure if a director or leading lady change would have helped. Jeunet has made movies I both Iove and hate.

    • I know exactly what you mean. I feel like that about him as well and this one bored me too.
      Even though it’s set up like a crime investigation there is no suspense and we know she will find him and even in what condition is no surprise.

  3. lazybill says:

    I haven’t seen the film but I read the book about 15 years ago. I enjoyed it although I though the part where one of the soldiers left in no mans land brought down a German plane by throwing a hand-grenade at it suspended disbelief a little too far. Sadly there aren’t enough good WW1 films in circulation although All Quiet On The Westrn Front is a tough act to follow.

    • I think that despite such liberties the book should be better. Japrisot is usually not a sentimental writer.
      I agree abou the WWI movies. the Australian did some great ones but there are French movies like THe Officer’s CHamber which are excellent.
      All Quiet is hard to follow.

      • lazybill says:

        True. The one with Kirk Douglas which is part court room drama is also excellent. Its name currently escapes me.

      • That’s Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. It’s very good, I agree. An older one from 1937, La Grande Illusion, is good too.

  4. I’ve never watched this one – nor had any inclination to after a few similar reviews to yours.

    But I did want to say that the Poms did a TV movie with some similarities starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) called My Boy Jack. Based on a play, its the story of Rudyard Kipling’s search for information about his son after he is lost at the Battle of Loos. Its told with a lot of flashbacks and I think Daniel Radcliffe is excellent in his role as the son, a young man who should never have been anywhere near the front but was pushed into it by his father who very much had very grandiose ideas about the nature of warfare as illustrated in his famous stories.

    If you haven’t seen it – I highly recommend it.

    • I have seen it and I remember I wasn’t too kind about Daniel Radcliffe. I did like the movie very much though. At the time there were rumours of another All Quiet on the Western Front remake starring him and that bothered me. But I agree, it’s an excellent movie. Very tragic. Kipling paid a huge prize for his misguided ideas.

  5. the war movie buff says:

    This movie has been in my queue for ages and I can’t bring myself to watch it. Your review certainly did not speed up the viewing.

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