It’s one hundred year since the world entered in the final year of the first global conflict. WWI was a fractal event in history. It changed the world order that had been in place for the last century, it led to the crumbling of empires that had lasted for many centuries, it changed the map of the world, created new nations and countries, and gave birth to one of the most cruel totalitarian regime ever, seeding the seeds for the emergency of another less than 20 years later. Tens of million of people died, the lives of other tens of millions were shaken, shattered, destroyed. It also changed the course of the history of culture, art and literature. Artists caught in the turmoil of war reflected their experiences (mostly traumatic) in dramatic works – paintings, music, poems, novels, films. One hundred years later, the experience of WWI is still subject to novels and films. Some of them are outstanding and this is the case with the novel of which won the Goncourt Prize in 2013 and the film it inspired written and directed by . “See You Up There” (“Au revoir là-haut” is the original title) shows that we still try to understand the feelings and sufferings of the men caught in that war (or in any war), to make sense of the absurdity, to learn where there may be no lesson to be learned.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5258850/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5258850/

 

The trigger of the story in “Au revoir là-haut” takes place in the last days of WWI. Armistice is rumored to happen any moment, but there are still commanders who have a hard time putting aside their war toys and continue to fight absurd missions sending soldiers in the way of useless deaths and mutilations. One of the last victims of the war is private Edouard Pericourt, an artist whose talent and style allude to the works of Egon Schiele. He is badly wounded and disfigured, and for the rest of his life will wear masks that hide the mutilation but also express his moods and feelings.  spends much of the film behind masks that he created, and this is one more challenge for that he overcomes with superb talent. His friend and companion is an older soldier, Albert Maillard, (acted by himself). Pericourt refuses to return to his rich family, the old conflict with his severe and authoritarian father being part of the reason. He just wants to disappear as dead, to hide the identity and cut short the destiny brutally destroyed by war. The revenge he devises is not aiming personal benefit, it’s a revenge against the system and society that sent him and his whole generation to war and does not care about the living victims, the survivors traumatized physically but especially psychologically, and against the demagogues and the war profiteers who switched businesses from selling arms to building cemeteries and monuments of war.

 

(video source Gaumont)

 

I will not reveal more about the story to leave intact to the readers of this note the pleasure of viewing. It’s a very well written story (excepting maybe the final) with characters that succeed to be both original and credible. It’s beautifully filmed, with a cinematography work that is expressive and attractive, seeking permanently surprising angles that make the experience of seeing this film interesting at all moments. Art plays a special role, there is a lot of original art (drawings, masks) created for this film in the spirit of the immediate post-war artistic movements. As viewers we are delighted with a beautiful and authentic image of Paris in 1919 and of the evolution of art in the aftermath of the war, at the time art-deco artists were turning to Expressionism and Abstract to express their feelings.

One of the best films about and against war that I have ever seen.