Les Fragments d'Antonin (2006)

aka: Fragments of Antonin
Drama / War


Les Fragments d'Antonin photo
France, 1919. At a makeshift hospital in the country, Professor Labrousse is leading a study into the mental trauma experienced by former combatants of the war that has just ravaged most of Europe. The focus of his research is a young man about whom he knows nothing but whose obsessive behaviour fascinates him. Over and over again, the man repeats the same five names, makes the same five gestures, whilst apparently oblivious to the world around him. It is as if he is re-living the same five terrible moments of his life over and over again, unable to free himself from the hold they have on his troubled mind...
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Film poster
Les Fragments d'Antonin is a remarkable first film from director Gabriel Le Bomin that offers a poignant meditation on the folly of war and the unquantifiable human cost of the First World War. For a wartime drama it is unusual in that the story is told through flashbacks, and very effectively so, but what makes it particularly special is that it is concerned not with the physical impact of war but rather with the psychological impact. Here, the film is pretty well treading new ground and its fragmented narrative structure is entirely appropriate for a film which is about a man living through the shattered fragments of a mind that has been smashed by his experiences of war.

An extraordinary performance by Grégori Derangère provides the film with its focus and drives home, without so much as a whiff of sentimentality, the tragedy of his character's predicament. Severe mental trauma is notoriously difficult for any actor to convey convincingly on screen, but Derangère succeeds admirably and convinces us that the suffering incurred by mental scars can be just as great, if not greater, than that which accompanies the most horrific of physical wounds.

Although it was made on a comparatively low budget, Les Fragments d'Antonin has the feel of a lavish period production, showing the kind of meticulous attention to detail that you would expect to see in a quality Hollywood blockbuster. The sets and photography, with their dull earth tones and sombre wintry texture, evoke not just the bleakness and carnage of the battlefields but also the penury and desolation of those serving on the sidelines, away from the front. The editing is also highly effective, lending a dreamlike impression which not only adds to the film's stark poetry but also allows the spectator to be drawn into Antonin's fractured interior world. This gives us some sense of what it must be like to endure the dehumanising influence of war and live through its devastating aftermath. A potent and extremely moving film.
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Les Fragments d'Antonin was nominated for 1 César in the category of: Best First Film (Gabriel Le Bomin) [2007].

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