Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Seven Years In A French Village

 

Sometimes I tease my husband about going on and on about a series he watches. He watches a lot of programs and movies via the internet. I tend to read books. I mentor a class requiring a lot of reading, and I run a book club. OK. I’m “bookish.” I always have been. I own it.

 

He went on and on about A French Village, until he had to skip Season 3 because he couldn’t access it, and went on to Season 4 and had problems understanding what was going on because significant events had happened in Season 3.

 

As I was trying to find a way to work around it, or find the most economical way to watch it – for him – I started watching the first episode. AdventureMan joined me. The beginning is full of events, it moves fast and – did I mention it is entirely in French with English subtitles?

 

I speak French. Well, I used to be fluent, now I am slow, and have forgotten a lot of little grammatical details. I can still speak, I can still understand, when people will speak more slowly. A French Village was so French it took my ear a long time to regain all that I have lost; I had an idea what they were saying but was not really tracking with accuracy. I needed the subtitles.

 

The first year, the first episode starts off with a normal day in the village; the population knows the Germans are miles away, approaching Villenueve, a fictional village in the Jura, close to the Swiss border. No one seems very concerned until all of a sudden, the Germans are there, in the village, and all hell breaks lose. We meet our main characters, Dr. Larcher (who becomes, by default, the village mayor) and his wife, Hortense, Lucienne, a school teacher, Raymond Swartz, his wife, Jeannine, and his lover, Marie, and several more characters.

 

People are herded into the church, where Dr. Larcher tends to the wounded under chaotic conditions, and during which he also agrees, without enthusiasm, to become mayor and to try to create some way to protect the people of the village from the demands of the Germans.

 

It is confusing – a lot like it would be in real life. At the beginning, it is a struggle to figure out who all the people are, but . . . you have seasons and seasons and episodes and episodes to figure it all out.

We started watching on Amazon Prime, for seasons 1 – 4, then subscribe to Mhz ($7.99/mo) for season 5 and six, but for season 7, we had to pay Amazon Prime $14.99 for these final episodes. Mhz was a good find for us; it has several foreign mystery and dramatic series – and movies – and is right up our alley. The Amazon payment was annoying, but we figured was the cost of lunch for one person, not such a large sum for seven episodes.

 

There are SEVEN seasons of A French Village. The first five years have 12 one hour episodes each. Seasons 6 and 7 are shorter, and deal with tying up loose ends.

 

What we love about this series (as well as the sheer French-ness of it all) is that the characters are allowed to be textured and layered. No one is all good, or all bad. They make mistakes. They have human failings and weaknesses. They have some moments of heroic goodness. They are very real people. Well, maybe very real French people; there are a lot of complicated love interests throughout the series, some of which are inexplicable and to me improbable, but I just shrug my shoulders and say “It’s a French production,” and guess that their ways are not our ways.

 

It’s a quick education to the experience of WWII, The German blitz of France, of Belgium, of the Netherlands, Poland, and the dread among German officers of serving on the eastern front. It’s horrifying to watch the passive response among the French to the round-up and eviction of the Jews (read a little of our own history before you go getting all judge-y), the petty competition for foods in the black market, the role of “renunciation” and anonymous letters accusing friends and neighbors of dark deeds, and the endless bickering which went into the cooperative operations for the French resistance.

 

 

Who collaborates? Almost everyone at one point or another; the consequences of standing on your principles are often fatal.

 

It is a little uncomfortable seeing Americans through the eyes of the French. They are not so impressed with our efforts in North Africa, they are not so happy to have Americans in their town. One episode of rape in Villeneuve involves American soldiers and a French girl.

 

We cannot wait for evening, when we can watch two or three or four episodes. We are slowing down a little in Season Seven, not wanting to series to end. It has been a wonderful excursion into a whole new and different world. At the end of which, I am understanding the French-spoken-at-normal-speed much more easily, and even spotting a small flaw or two in the translations.

 

There are two episodes I love. One involves a parade on November 11th. The other involves the execution of two Villeneuve inhabitants, one an unscrupulous and despicable mayor and the other a heroic leader of the Resistance. I know, I know, you’ll have to watch it yourselves to see what I mean.

October 10, 2019 - Posted by | Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Entertainment, France, Interconnected, Social Issues, Survival | , , , , , , ,

12 Comments »

  1. I enjoyed your review of A French Village. I also love that series and am recommending it to all my friends.

    However, this statement is wrong: “The sole episode of rape in the entire series involves American soldiers and a French girl, not Germans.”

    In Season 1, Episode 9 (“The Lesson,” February 12, 1941), Heinrich Muller sexually assaults Lucienne Borderie in his office.

    Lucienne is trying to get Jules Beriot out of prison because he has been arrested for possessing a gun. She goes through bureaucratic nightmares and is forced to make her case to Heinrich Muller, who exploits the situation and sexually assaults her.

    Jules does get freed but it leaves Lucienne distraught and ashamed. She doesn’t tell Jules what happened.

    Kurt finds out that Jules got freed, assumes that she is happy about it and gives her a flower for Valentine’s Day. He is shocked when she starts crying but he embraces her and lets her grieve.

    “The Lesson” was a very moving, powerful episode.

    Comment by Joanne Callahan | July 5, 2020 | Reply

    • Was Lucienne really raped or just sexually assaulted? I liked the character of Kurt. I haven’t watched the whole series,though.

      Comment by Mary | February 27, 2021 | Reply

      • Joanne is right. I had forgotten about Meuller and Lucien. When we think of rape, we generally think of something physically violent and physical, but we have seen that Mueller loves having power over people and is aroused by imposing himself on the powerless. We don’t see what happened, but if we extrapolate from what we have seen Mueller do to others – cruel, violent, painful acts intended to humiliate – we can assume that Lucien suffered.

        Comment by intlxpatr | February 27, 2021

      • I was offended by the question, “Was Lucienne really raped or just sexually assaulted?” Why? Because it trivializes sexual assault. We do not see what happened after Heinrich Muller assaulted Lucienne Borderie. Perhaps he forced her to have intercourse. Maybe he “took his grubby hands off her” and quietly let her leave his office.

        Nevertheless, Heinrich’s behavior was deeply misogynistic, it was a tremendous violation of “personal space” and it left Lucienne feeling profoundly distraught and depressed. By any standard, it is a powerful #MeToo story.

        Comment by Joanne M Callahan | February 27, 2021

      • Joanne, you are right about the fine line between rape and sexual assault. I think that we can extrapolate from what we know of Muller’s behavior before the incident, and Lucienne’s trauma afterwards, that something happened, something very unpleasant. Muller held all the power, and Lucienne may have complied to save Jules. Woman have made that sacrifice before. You are right, it isn’t fair or just and it has to do with power and force more than sex.

        Comment by intlxpatr | February 28, 2021

      • I don’t think many people remember what happened during the “incident”. Here’s a refresher:

        Henrich asked Lucienne if she was Jules’ mistress. She looked shocked and said, “No.” He then grabbed some hard liquor and gave her a drink and she didn’t like it. He went closely behind her and said, “When a man sees a pretty girl.” He swiftly put his hand inside her blouse and immediately grabbed her left breast. Lucienne went into shock and looked like she was going to throw up.

        Even if nothing had happened after the “incident” and Heinrich had let her go, it was profoundly offensive — a true sexual assault, another addition to #MeToo.

        If Lucienne had channeled her inner Olympe de Gouges and had told Heinrich to go shove it, Jules would have stayed in prison and probably gotten executed. Heinrich would have beaten Lucienne and probably put her in jail.

        The fact that we are still discussing this scene shows that our culture still doesn’t “get it” on sexual assault.

        Indeed, I’ll bet that most readers have never heard of Olympe de Gouges, the brilliant, pioneering 18th century French feminist, author of the groundbreaking The Rights of Woman and the Citizen.

        .

        Comment by jmc | February 28, 2021

  2. I just recently discovered Un village Français series and absolutely love it. I started learning French at 40 and have grown to love it! I don’t have a chance to speak French often, these show offers a chance to get back to it. As a Russian raised in the former USSR, I grew up to detest Germans like all my compatriots and only perceived them as fascists, arrogant aggressors and sadists. This series breaks away from stereotypes and portrays German soldiers as multidimensional and human. I could not help but like the young, sensitive Kurt Wagner and rooted for him and Lucienne. And although character of Heinrich Mueller falls in stark contrast with Kurt, he too surprised me with his depth and complexity, and even a good sense of humor. The series also offers a unique close look at the life of average French people under Nazi occupation and a heart-breaking persecution of the Jews. It is absolutely a must-see!!!

    Comment by Anna | November 9, 2020 | Reply

    • Anna, I agree with you on everything! I thought the French station did a magnificent, and very fair job representing a difficult time in history. I have the feeling now that I lived in that village, that we all suffered together, and I know who to watch out for! It inspired us to go to many small towns in France last year at this time, and we have another trip planned to some historic French villages for next year, or whenever we can safely travel once again. Thank you for your thoughtful and enthusiastic comment 🙂

      Comment by intlxpatr | November 9, 2020 | Reply

    • Anna, I agree with you. I was deeply moved by the star-crossed romance of Lucienne and Kurt, in part because Marie Kremer and Samuel Theis had such great on-screen chemistry.

      You mentioned that Kurt and Heinrich are nuanced characters, but Marie-Christine Scholz thinks that they’re stereotypes. She makes some interesting points about their “flawless” French:

      https://www.peterlang.com/view/9783631801109/html/ch13.xhtml

      My response is that of course, the SS would require Heinrich to speak excellent Franch. lol

      As far as Kurt’s French is concerned, well, Samuel Theis was born and raised in Forbach, right smack on the border of Germany and France. Since the Nazis forced young men from Alsace-Lorraine to join the Wehrmacht, I didn’t think it was far-fetched that he spoke good French.

      Regardless of whether we think Kurt and Henrich are nuanced characters or stereotypes, Samuel Theis and Richard Sammel gave exceptional performances. I have started to follow the careers of these two immensely talented–and handsome–actors.

      Comment by Joanne Callahan | December 6, 2020 | Reply

  3. I’m surprised that you haven’t mentioned that A French Village is available at your local library – at least it is at mine. I started watching seasons 1, 3-4 on Amazon Prime, but didn’t want to PAY for seasons 2, 5-7. ALL SEASONS are available and watchable during the pandemic, but sigh, I can only watch ten episodes a month (twenty when I add my husband’s account).

    Comment by Claudia | May 30, 2021 | Reply

    • All seven seasons of A French Village are available on Netflix DVD. If you have a subscription, you don’t have to pay extra.

      Comment by joannecallahana7b7c90368 | May 30, 2021 | Reply

  4. Joanne M, I wasn’t trivializing sexual assault and rape. You misunderstood the question I made. You don’t know with what motives or in what manner I asked the question. English is not my first language so maybe the way I paraphrased my question caused confusion. I asked because the series shows Muller sexually assaulting Lucienne and she was crying afterwards. And the series don’t explain what happened afterwards. Some people don’t remember that episode. What happened to Lucienne in that episode was horrible and no one should be touched without their consent. Heinrich muller obviously likes to humiliate people in the series. Both sexual assault and rape are horrible and a violation of a person’s dignity as a human being but sexual assault and rape are defined differently, that’s why I asked the question.

    Comment by Mary | June 18, 2021 | Reply


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