The life and death of Irène Némirovsky and the fate of the cycle of novels that inspired ‘Suite francaise‘ could be the subject of a thrilling movie, a different one. Born in 1903 in an Ukrainian Jewish family, she took refuge to France after the First World War with her family flying the Russian revolution, but was never granted French citizenship. Converting to Catholicism and writing French nationalistic (some consider these anti-Semitic) fiction did not spare her the fate of the majority of the French Jews – deportation to the concentration camps and death (at Auschwitz). ‘Suite francaise’ was planned to be a five volumes saga about the years of war, written as the events happened. Irene Nemirovsky wrote only two of them before being deported, the manuscript was unread for more than half of a century until discovered by her daughter and published as what has become a historical novel about the years of the war.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0900387/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0900387/

 

I did not read (yet) the books, but from the synopsis on Wikipedia I understand that the script departs quite afar from the original. The (spectacular) introduction scenes may not be in the book but they are useful to understand the context and the historical moment. Similarly, the final seems to be a Hollywood patch, not necessarily adding anything. The core of the film resides in the building love story between the young French woman whose husband is a prisoner of war and the German officer who is allocated to live in their house. It’s a complex relationship, and the merit of the script is that it avoids the black-white, bad-good nuances and moral judgments leaving room for the feelings and emotions. There is also a strong social content, both in the main story (are love or even co-existence allowed between occupier and occupied? here is a question valid also in other times and places) and in the secondary story of the mayor-viscount who pays with his life the price of collaboration. Ambiguity is however the tone that works here best.

 

(video source Entertainment One UK)

 

One of the hard obstacles for viewers of ‘Suite francaise’ is the fact that the film is American and spoken in English. I do not know whom I should ask, but I would certainly loved to see a French version. Maybe it’s still easier for the non-French to deal with the theme of ‘la collaboration’?Beautiful and fragile and tormented and introspective do both good acting jobs in the main roles, but best of all is  as the mother-in-law who may make you change your mind about the moral fabric of the French high classes.  is only at his third long feature film and directs with kind of an academic touch not exactly to my taste, but there are many good reasons to go and see this film.