5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2013
The 1967 version by Jean-Gabriel Albicocco is by far superior to this. It is a perfect realization in film of Alain-Fournier's masterpiece. I have wept every time I've seen it, and I'm not that emotional about films. The scene near the end where Meaulnes carries Yvonne's body down the stairs is the most heartbreaking scene in film history. This later version is well enough filmed, but it messes with the plot to an unforgivable degree. If you like Clémence Poésy (and I certainly do), it's worth seeing for her face and performance alone. She is the best thing in it, mainly because she is such a perfect successor to Brigitte Fossey, who played Yvonne de Galais in the 1967 film. The original film shown in the UK (where it did the rounds of art cinemas for years) had sub-titles, but these do not appear on the DVD. When will someone bring back in that form?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2015
Film and literature have a long relationship, if one hundred years in the life of cinema can be said to be long. But it's a strained relationship based on inherent incompatibility. Dialogue or narration in film is subordinate to what we see. We hear the words and understand what they mean but only in the context of the visual. Take away the images and film disappears. Thus, the story is always told by what is seen.
Literature is different. It's more like music. You hear and feel the language, its cadences and echoes, its rhythms and beat. You sing with it as it sings to you. Your heart swells and the music carries you along. In some sense you even sing the story into existence, actively creating the world the author describes to you, your imagination a sort of church choir rattling the rafters. Film is much more passive. Probably you are attentive as you sit back with the popcorn and watch. But there are no pages to turn. This makes you a passive participant.
It was never going to be easy to transfer The Lost Domain (Le Grand Meaulnes) from the pages of Alain-Fournier's celebrated novel to the flickering light seen through celluloid. Film can be sensitive and delicate too, but not in the ways that language is. Given this, the book (first published in 1913) exists in the shadows of the film. There is poetry in the film, or poetic ways of expressing feeling, but language is secondary to what we see. The film is also French, so of course the images are beautiful (a general statement that often rings true). We see a village, a simple schoolhouse, forests, a river, a chateau. The world is green and blue, sketched in by the land and sky. The world is also young or seems so, as we see it through the eyes of the youth in the film.
The lost domain of the title is the realm of youth and adolescence, stations on life's journey we pass through only once. Thus they are precious. We remember much from this time in our lives because of the intensity of feeling we had then — new emotions, sensations, ways of seeing and responding to the world. It's this that Alain-Fournier examines and celebrates; this too that he mourns as innocence passes.
The month is September, the year 1910. We are in the village of Sainte-Agathe in the Solange, a region of lakes and forests in central France. Peace, tranquility and quietude reign. The pace of the village is slow, its life intimate. François Seurel, aged 15, is the son of the headmaster of the local school. He narrates the story, so we see the world through his eyes.
Augustin Meaulnes, aged 18, arrives in the village and lodges with the Seurel family. After a wayward youth spent largely on adventures, not studies, he is sent to the village by his mother, who hopes M. Seurel's school can help correct his defects. It can't. Conventional rules don't interest him. For instance, in class he asks to be excused. The teacher grants him this wish, thinking he needs to use the outdoor lavatory. He does go outside, but he doesn't return. Or he does, but two days later. In the meantime he borrows a horse and cart, leaves the village, explores the countryside, gets lost, is caught in a rainstorm, loses the cart and horse, holes up in a cabin near a lake, sleeps in a strange bed, dries his wet clothes by the fire, and walks back to Sainte-Agathe. He re-enters the classroom, sits at his desk, lays down his head, falls asleep. Such eccentricities have not been seen in the village before. No one quite knows what to say. To François, however, Meaulnes is a hero, a rebel and renegade, a person individual and secure enough to be unaffected by the conforming expectations of others. He thus becomes Le Grand Meaulnes in the mind of François, an ideal to celebrate and strive for, which François in due course will do.
These early escapades and adventures are a prelude to grand ones that will follow, adventures of love and beauty, and of deep truths revealed by them.
Lost youth, innocence, love and life — the grand themes of Le Grand Meaulnes. In the end, these are sadly lost by every life. But a greater sadness attends them when lost so soon in war. This was the tragedy Alain-Fournier wanted to leave with us. He did so with grace, charm and unforgettable beauty.