Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ceux de 14 reaches the screen

In a previous post, I mentioned that preparations were under way to adapt Maurice Genevoix's novel Ceux de 14 for television. The novel has now been adapted into six 52-minute episodes, the first of which is to be broadcast on France 3 on 28 October. Those of us who cannot receive France 3 will have to wait until it appears on TV5 Monde (channel 796 on your Sky box, but Freeview watchers are doomed to disappointment). The good news is that it starts on 3 November at 1835 (other times in other continents), according to TV5's website.

The French Allociné site tries to tempt you with the idea that the series will be a French Band of Brothers. In the way of internet comments section everywhere, a number of public comments laugh at the idea - whoever heard of positive comments on a webpage?

Certainly, the novel relies on a single point of view - it's Genevoix who tells the story - rather than the multiple points of the US series, so the two are not directly comparable. The footage of individual veterans used at the start of each Band of Brothers episode also gave that series an emotional impact that Ceux de 14 cannot possibly have, since Genevoix and his comrades are all long in their graves. But the idea of following a small group of soldiers through the conflict holds good. In an article in Le Monde, the director Olivier Chatzky insists, 'With Genevoix's pen, each soldier is an individual, each portrait complete. There is a dignity in his writing, and throughout this project, it has almost been a public service to counter the cliche of the mass anonymity of the conflict. In this series, we follow a small group of lads under the orders of the young sous-lieutenant Genevoix.'

A short trailer is available here; a slightly longer one here. A Youtube clip here depicts a combat from early in the conflict. A large number of stills are shown on the Centenaire 14-18 website here.

Théo Frilet (on the left), the actor who plays Genevoix (on the right), received the best newcomer prize at the Luchon Festival 2014 for his role. I think the former's moustache perhaps needs a little work ...

Much of the series was filmed in the east of France, around Thierville-sur-Meuse. Stories charting the creation of the series, taken from the local newspaper, the Est-Republicain, are linked to from the Verdun-Meuse website here.

Illustrations: the top picture and that of Frilet both come from the Séries Mania website; the photo of actors and crew came from the Le Monde article; the book cover a webfind; the photo of Genevoix from the excellent Ceux de 14 blog, which contains many articles and much information about the author and his writing career.

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