1911. A French peasant Charles Saganne volunteers to join the French army and is
posted to the Sahara. Serving under the aristocratic Colonel Dubreuilh, he soon
distinguishes himself, earning the respect of his fellow soldiers and Arabs alike.
He is attracted to Madeline, the daughter of a regional administrator. By now a
military hero, Saganne is sent to Paris on a diplomatic mission. Although the mission
fails, the journey is not wasted - he meets and has a pasionate affair with the journalist
Louise Tissot. Back in the Sahara, he leads the campaign against Sultan Omar.
Saganne achieves fame and military honour, but his swashbuckling heroism and idealism
prove to be ill-suited for the battlefields of World War One...
At the time, Fort Saganne
was the most expensive film to have been made in France.
A three hour long epic, with an star-studded cast - headed by living icons Gerard Dépardieu
and Catherine Deneuve - this ought to be a monumental film, yet it falls far short of
being an unqualified success, in many areas.
Visually, the film is quite stunning, particularly the spectacular desert scenes, which
manage to convey the barren desolation of the location. Likewise, the action scenes
are well choreographed and the money looks as if it has been well spent.
Yet, despite all these impressive production values, the film feels empty and, sometimes,
plodding. Neither Dépardieu and Deneuve seem to live up to their reputation,
and much of the film looks overly stage-managed and theatrical. The middle segment
involving Sophie Marceau adds very little to the film and should probably have been cut,
reducing the film to a more acceptable length.
There are as many good things as bad in this film, and watching it is a frustrating experience
because it could, and should, have been a much better film.
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