Based on the best-selling book by Irene Nemirovsky and set during the German occupation of France in the 1940’s, Suite Française tells the story of Lucile Angellier as she awaits news from her husband, a prisoner of war. As Parisian refugees pour into their small town, soon followed by a regiment of German soldiers who take up residence in the villagers’ homes, Lucile’s life is turned upside down, further complicated by the arrival of refined German officer, Bruno. A story of the power of love and the tragedy of war.
The director, Saul Dibb, who made The Duchess, paints a picture of a class-ridden society under the spotlight of occupation. The themes of collaboration, compassion and betrayal run through the film, and characters who initially seem to be one thing, like Lucile’s hard-hearted mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas), emerge as more complex. Mark Kermode notes this ‘wrongfooting’ of our expectations and also hails the performances of Harriet Walter and Lambert Wilson, ‘stealing the movie out from under its stars’ noses with pitch-perfect precision and understatement’. Even the film’s portrayal of the Nazi soldiers is satisfyingly complicated. Also refreshing is a sense that we’re thrown into the middle of the uncertainty of war; ‘Suite Française’ works hard to free itself from the benefit of hindsight.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall