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La Mer à l’aube (Calm at Sea) by Volker Schlöndorff

September 30, 2013

volker

WWII and Nazism have provided content and inspiration for countless films but life in France during the German occupation is a rarely tackled subject, so I was eager to see this film – set in France near Nantes on the Atlantic coast in 1941 – directed by a German filmmaker, the real life episode of a German retaliation after two German officers are assassinated by an unidentified Communist commando seemed quite apt to depict the ambiguous and contradictory relationship between the French citizens and the German occupants since the French authorities had to cooperate with the German ones to select one hundred Frenchmen who would be executed as a retaliatory measure by the Germans.

aube

Schlöndorff has tried to convey the uneasy spirit of the time with scenes involving the German and French authorities and their dilemmas – no one is a bad guy nor a good guy and Adolf is the name of the only one to blame – but the film is a failure on a dramatic level while the emotional one is rather conventional – it´s a true story, I get it, but it resembles tons of others we already know, the only reason to tell it one more time would be a new perspective, but Calm at Sea fails and during its ninety minutes renovates well-known clichés and its ecumenical tone – the real story of Guy Moquet is echoed by the inner drama of a young German soldier – doesn´t help.

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