Les Fragments d'Antonin
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
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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