Old-fashioned humanism, certainly, but none the less appealing for all that, Dupeyron's Great War drama (from a novel by Marc Dugain) adopts a slightly unusual narrative policy of proceeding, carefully but rewardingly, from darkness to light. In 1914, after a rather rushed, predatory and desultory erotic encounter that means more to him than us, an officer in the Engineers goes to the Front and has virtually his entire face blown away. The rest of the war he spends in hospital, at first so monstrously disfigured - we don't see his face for a long time - and stricken by pain that life doesn't seem worth living. Slowly, however, with help from medical staff and similarly disfigured patients, his face, faith and sense of identity and personal worth are rebuilt. A few early uncertainties over point of view and a needlessly attenuated ending are mercifully not enough to undermine a marvellously assured film, which is beautifully acted throughout, unexpectedly funny in places, and profoundly moving. And perhaps it's a little more offbeat than it first appears: when did you last hear Arvo Pärt used for a sex scene?
La Chambre des officiers
Cast and crew