Life and Nothing But
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
A year after WWI has ended, cynical Major Dellaplane (Philippe Noiret - Cinema Paradiso, The Postman) has the difficult task of identifying and interring thousands of fallen French soldiers anonymously languishing in field hospitals and littering the vast Verdun battlefield. Dellaplane has also become reluctant shepherd to an ad hoc society grown around the legions of widowed wives and mothers combing the French countryside for word of their loved ones. When a buried hospital train yields a fresh source of possibly recognizable bodies, Irene, a haughty Parisian aristocrat and Alice, a hopeful young schoolteacher, form an unlikely alliance with the Major. As the train's surprising cargo is revealed, the three searches must choose between life in a post-war world stripped of illusions or the seductive self-imprisonment of bitterness and mourning for days, lives and loves gone by.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Showing 1-4 of 17 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Fresh off the ambiguously masterful experience of Bertrand Tavernier's masterpiece Coup de Torchon, I embarked on his lesser yet still engaging La vie et rien d'autre (1989). It's a refreshing take on the repetitive/virtually mono-thematic genre of war movies since most rarely cover the post-war period -- in this case, the years following WWI. Considering the extraordinary French casualties suffered in WWI, the film is particularly powerful and devastating. As in Coup de Torchon, Philippe Noiret is at the top of his game as the male lead (Delaplane). His supporting cast is on the whole quite solid - especially the actress Sabine Azéma who plays the icy, wealthy, Parisian Madame Irène de Courti searching for the body of her husband. The actress Pascale Vignal is quite good as Alice who is searching for the body of her fiance.
Brief Plot Summary (limited spoilers)
La Vie et rien d'autre takes place in France after WWI. Delaplane is responsible for identifying the 350,000 or so soldiers missing in action. The opening scene is one of the most powerful in the film. The wealthy Parisian, Irène arrives at a hospital where Delaplane is photographing corpses and various other shell-shocked soldiers who have lost their minds. The Delaplane we first see is intensely driven and passionate about what he considers his extraordinarily important duty -- to precisely identify every man killed or missing in action and alert their families. Irène on the other hand, does not see his passion and instead is frustrated with the layers of bureaucracy which she perceives is preventing her from finding her husband.
Here the second strand of the narrative is introduced. Alice, who took over from the local school teacher when he went off to war, is out of a job after the teacher returns. So, she decides to find her fiance who is also missing in action. Irène and Alice meet in a mostly destroyed town and become friends despite their drastically different social backgrounds.
The third narrative thread introduced is by far the most satirical. The French government is attempting to find an actual "unknown soldier" (conflicting with Delaplane's stated purpose in life to identify everyone) to bury in pomp and ceremony under the Arc de Troimphe in Paris. This is quite difficult because of the problems of identifying who is an American, a German, or a Frenchman. Tavernier addresses this section with satirical intention -- criticizing the obsession over an unidentified soldier as opposed to the desire to identify the soldiers -- likewise, the monument concentrates all grief on an almost "symbolic" death instead of the million plus who actually died and whose families suffered.
All of these narrative strands interweave at a particularly horrific location in the country side -- a train carrying new soldiers, hospital cars, ammunition, American soldiers, etc which exploded when entering a German rigged train tunnel. Delaplane's soldiers attempt to remove all the dead bodies and invite families to identify them. This is the location for the most powerful scene in the film. The families file past long tables covered with trinkets and belongings of all the dead bodies recovered from the tunnel meticulously labeled to the corresponding body for family members to recognize and identify -- tin cups with initials scratched on the bottom, watches, necklaces from lovers and wives, keys, notebooks, booklets, etc.
Delaplane's stern exterior soon shows cracks as he watches both Irène and Alice soldier through fruitless searches. He soon falls for Irène... It is at this point that I'll stop my summary.
My Final Thoughts
This isn't an action film. This is a reflective film. The sets are quite interesting and provide a believable backdrop -- the hellish train tunnel filled with the dead and the wrecked train, the hotel placed among the generators of a gigantic factory, the bombed out towns, the camp clustered around the train tunnel, the endless mazy corridors of the hospital filled with shell shocked and wounded. The love story might feel somewhat forced and the ending a tad frustrating. My biggest qualm was actually the film score which I felt tried too hard to drum up tension and expectation when there was none. That said, this is a lost great of the war movie genre -- despite its setting COMPLETELY in the POST-WAR period. Definitely check out this Noiret and Tavernier collaboration. Coup de Torchon is a superior film but this is still worth your time.
This is not a story about World War I [War of 1914 - 1918] but rather a story about the effects of the war that continued for years after the end of the war, as well as its effects on individuals and their families. It seems that there are three love stories going on in the film, a woman who is searching for her husband who disappeared during the last months of the war, a young woman who is searching for her fiancé who also disappeared during the same time, and a French major and a widow who had a chance meeting that offered the hopes of a permanent relationship.
Major (Commandant) Dellaplane [played by the late Philippe Noiret] is a French Army medical officer who has been charged with both identifying the remains of dead French soldiers and also with selecting one French "unknown" to be among those to be considered to be the "unknown" who would ultimately be buried at the Arch of Triumph. His main concern is giving proper identities to those soldiers found on the fields of battle so that they can be returned to their homes and families for proper burial. This becomes an obsession for him, and his concern for numbers is an indication of this obsession. His superiors insist that he find an unknown FRENCH soldier, not an American, German, or Senegalese soldier. His identifying remains takes up most of his time, thus causing his superior officers to accuse him of being "obsessional," "insubordinate," and a "Dreyfusard."
He comes into contact with an aristocratic haut-bourgeois woman, Irène de Courtil [played by Sabine Azéma] searching for her lost husband. She is as obsessed with finding him as Commandant Dellaplane with identifying the unknowns who are found on the battlefields. At first Madame de Courtil has harsh words for Commandant Dellaplane, but when she sees the enormity of his undertaking, her attitude toward him softens. The regard that these two have for each other is noted by other characters in the film, particularly by the sculptor, Mercadot, who is on the scene doing studies for war memorials.
Another major character is Alice [played by Pascale Vignal], a school teacher searching for her fiancée.
Much of the action of the film takes place at the tunnel at Grézacourt where a French train carrying both wounded and munitions was blown up by mines left in the tunnel during the last days of the war. There were on the train well preserved remains of the soldiers who had died two years earlier. Widows and other family members came to the site of the tunnel to attempt to identify the remains based on personal effects found on them. It is at this location that the lives of Commandant Dellaplane, Irène de Courtil, and Alice come together.
Several reviewers have mentioned that they were unsatisfied with the ending of the film. We Americans like happy endings, and this film leaves us with more of a "European" kind of ending where one is not really sure whether there was a happy ending.
We see the heroic efforts of Commandant Dellaplane in several occasions where there were explosions of munitions on the train in the tunnel, showing great concern both for his men and for the families of those who had lost close family members during the war.
At a time when we are thinking ahead to Veterans Day [formerly known as Armistice Day], we think of the end of World War I -- November 11, 1918. We remember our own war dead, as well as those of the allies who fought in the war of 1914 to 1918, and the wars that came both before and after as a testament to their heroic efforts both on the battlefield as well as the sacrifices made by civilians at home.
The performances of Philippe Noiret and Sabine Azéma were compelling. The film was of such excellent quality that I ordered a copy for myself and a copy to give as a gift. This is worth more than just one viewing.
I was pleased that there was an interview with both Philippe Noiret and director Bertrand Travernier with the DVD. It added much to my understanding of the film both from a personal and academic point of view.
They and several others arrived to a place where a military French train destroyed by the German army is buried inside a tunnel. People go there trying to find their husbands, sons and brothers and also trying to end with a war who has been terrible.
These two characters are distant, they had problems to develope any intimate relation. Delaplane is a soldier, he thinks like one and acts like one. But he is also a man who has seen so much death and destruction that he has reached a point where nothing cares to him. Irene is a woman who has lived a predictable life, she is a lady , in all the extension of the word. Who now feels out of place among people who has felt the war in its cruelest way. They start their relation fighting each other. But also fighting their concern to care about someone. Because they are afraid of having an intimate relation with anyone.
This film talks not only about the hypocrisy of war and the pain it creates, but also about love. The fear we feel when we love, if we dare to do it again after the pain love has done to us.
The performances of Sabine Azema and Philippe Noiret are wonderful. They can show us their fragility with such economy of gestures and words that you cannot avoid to feel moved by them.
A wonderful film that will remain in your memory for a long time