1 December 2023

Madeleine (Rebecca Marder) in


Exactly a year ago, we discovered at the cinema the excellent documentary by Sylvain Desclous entitled The Campaign of France. We followed there in particular, between three lists, the infernal and touching team composed of the young Mathieu – tall shy without label inclined towards social utopia and the “yellow vest” – and the old veteran Guy – booming and eruptive socialist driving in coupe Mercedes –, launched at full speed to conquer the town hall of Preuilly-sur-Claise (Indre-et-Loire). Invigorating, funny, human, engaging film, attentive to local political issues to better expose the political challenge of loyalty to the ideal as the universal springs of the old human comedy.

With great expectations, a Dickensian title, we go from documentary to fiction and from local to national at the same time. A new tandem takes center stage. Madeleine (Rebecca Marder) and Antoine (Benjamin Lavernhe) form an ambitious young couple there, eager to serve their country at the highest level and to work for a fairer society there. When the film opens, Madeleine, who comes from a very modest background, motherless, abandoned by a resigning father, is preparing for the ENA oral in the superb holiday home overlooking the Corsican coast of her father. ‘Antoine, a wealthy lawyer. A dinner brings together these three, as well as a friend of Antoine’s family, Gabrielle (Emmanuelle Bercot), hierarch of the Socialist Party and former Secretary of State.

The turn taken by the conversation places the film on rails that it is destined to leave. The couple, by their youthful drive, their determination to change the system from within, their faith in the future, contrasts with the cynicism and condescension of Antoine’s father, as well as with the seasoned pragmatism of Gabrielle. This logic of generational confrontation will, however, be brutally reversed by another arrangement, even more implacable: that of loyalty to one’s social class. A tragic event, occurring on the island the next morning, and involving the two young people, will change the course of their lives and introduce a secret that will end up devouring their couple.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Sylvain Desclous, filmmaker: “The neutral, sociological gaze bores me. I want something else”

Without revealing its nature, it will suffice to say that the respective reaction of the two young people to the violence of the event bears witness in itself to the dividing line that has since widened between them. The courage of Madeleine and the cowardice of Antoine. Madeleine’s sense of honor and Antoine’s fear. Madeleine’s risk-taking and Antoine’s protection of her reputation. Two worlds. One with nothing to lose, the other with everything to lose. It will not take long, on their return to Paris, for the two lovers, who are nevertheless bound by the most terrible of secrets, to move away. It is Antoine, the big child, the weak heir, who takes the initiative, abandoning Madeleine without further ado.

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