Capitaine Conan (Captain Conan) 1996
by Bertrand Tavernier
Bulgaria near the end of World War I: Conan, warrior and wolf, leads a band of 50 ruthless French fighters who love hand-to-hand combat. Their motto: “We forgot to take prisoners, Captain.” At war’s end, the unit goes to Bucharest, where Conan tries to keep them out of trouble, defends them when they behave as warriors, and finds he’s unsuited for peacetime.
His friendship with Norbert, a teacher turned lieutenant, is tested when Norbert accepts a job as court-martial prosecutor because he’s learned that Conan will be facing charges and he wants to protect his friend. When they are sent to the Russian border to fight Bolsheviks, Conan is back in his element and Norbert is off the hook.
Les Balkans, septembre 1918. Alors que l’armistice est signe en France, seule l’armée d’Orient n’est pas démobilisée et reste en état de guerre. Casernes dans Bucarest, les soldats sèment le désordre, pillent et tuent. Norbert a la delicate mission de faire condamner les coupables, les hommes du capitaine Conan, son ami a qui l’on doit, sous le commandement de Franchet d’Esperrey, la prise du mont Sokol. Malgré la fureur de Conan, qui défend ses soldats envers et contre tout, Norbert fera son devoir.
Reviews of the film
Bertrand Tavernier’s tough, contemplative wartime epic ”Capitaine Conan” unfolds in historical limbo, set among French troops who continue fighting in the Balkans even after the Armistice ending World War I has been declared. That atmosphere of strife and confusion ably mirrors the film’s moral climate, in which Mr. Tavernier brings his characteristic acuity to bear in weighing the meaning of combat and the ethics of a true warrior. Conan (Philippe Torreton), the film’s brave and stubborn hero, is a fighter by nature, for better and for worse.
In a vast yet subtle film that was a major winner of last year’s Cesar awards in France (Mr. Tavernier’s direction and Mr. Torreton’s formidable performance were both honored), a true story becomes the starting point for an elaborate moral inquiry. ”Capitaine Conan” is based on a 1934 autobiographical novel by Roger Vercel, who presents himself as the story’s resident ethicist, a solemn young officer named Lieutenant Norbert (Samuel Le Bihan).
By JANET MASLIN ~ New York Times