Just a couple of hours till the next two episodes of a wonderful new series on WWII, which D., T. and I started to watch last Thursday, by pure chance. In French it is called “Un Village Francais” which of course means, “A French Village”. A very unassuming little name, but what they want to show with this series, is a small town, somewhere in the Juras, called Villeneuve and how it handled the German Occupation. Swedish television has said absolutely nothing about the series, as far as I can tell. But on the internet, in French, I have been able to decipher that the series will contain 60 episodes, 12 for each year of the occupation.
As far as I can tell, what they want to show, is an ordinary town in France, could be anywhere really, and how the war affected it. How the occupation brought out both the good and the bad in people. How people did things they did not even know they were capable of doing. How small things became big and big things became small. It might not be built on a true story, but what matters is that it could have been true!
Unfortunately I had no idea what it was that started on the screen, so at the beginning I did not entirely pay attention to what was going on. Season 1, episode 1, shows the 12 June 1940. It starts with a school class full of small children, about 7-10 years of age, heading out-of-town, to have a picnic. The idea was the male school teacher’s and one can soon see why since he only has eyes for the young pretty school mistress, Lucienne. While they are flirting, the children are playing and having fun. An airplane flies by above them, and the male teacher comments on the French being out flying. Instead of studying the plane closely, he studies Lucienne’s eyes and doesn’t react when the plane comes over them a second time and finally when it comes the third time, it is too late. He screams that it is a German plane and the children panic. They run around like headless chickens, screaming. Little Gustave, a small little boy in miniscule dirty clothing, runs off in the
forest without anyone noticing. He was smart. The others run around out in the open and when the male teacher, tries to get them over to some trees, a more safe area for them, he and two boys get killed. Lucienne, who probably got her job because she was pretty or had connections, act like the bimbo she is. In other words, she does nothing to help the situation. She finally gets enough grip on herself, to order the children to stay put and wait to be fetched, right there on the field, instead of the class heading back to town.
At the same time in town, there is some kind of communist uprising at the lumber yard, owned by Raymond Schwartz. The police arrives to check who is
who, I think. Difficult to say since it was all very confusing, me not paying full attention, but what is clear, is that a woman is in labour, in a very unfitting place. She knows no French, is a communist and the doctor, Daniel Larcher, arrives to deliver the baby. All this happening at the same time as the town is being bombarded. The little baby boy is born, but the mother is not doing very well. When Daniel asks her what she will name her boy, she says “Téquieró”. The doctor thinks that it is the name she has chosen for the boy and he can not ask her properly, since she passed out right after saying the word, loosing a lot of blood. He manages to take the baby to his wife Hortense and tells her that the baby’s name is Téquieró and that his mother is Spanish, that is why the name is so odd. He continues with the bleeding, unconscious mother, towards the French road block, and demands to be let through so he can take her to a military hospital. But he is told that it has been evacuated. Finally he ends up bribing the soldiers to take her to the nearest field hospital, himself going back for his wife, trying to run for the Swiss border.
Raymond Schwartz, is a rich man with a drunkard for a wife and a son, who was in attendance at the picnic. He is also a man who has the hots for a farm woman, by the name of Marie Germain. On an excuse of getting a chicken for dinner, he goes to her farm and seduces her. Her being willing, since she has not heard from her soldier husband for a long time and Raymond being a charmer. On his return to town, without a chicken, he finds that his son has been shot in the arm, by the German airplane and that he is in deep shock over his best friend, being dead. All the parents are in shock, and the local priest does his best in trying to comfort them all. But that is not the end of their sorrows. The first house, almost, that gets occupied by the Germans, who arrive later in the day, is the Schwarz house and the family who is used to all sorts of luxuries, is now forced to find a solution to this new situation.
Episode number 2, continued right after episode 1, and now we have moved on to the 24 June 1940. 12 days of chaos have ensued, and Doctor Larcher has not been able to overtake all the refugees, but is stuck. He turns around and goes back to town with his wife and Téquieró. On the way, he finds his more than dirty, nephew Gustave, who had hooked up with a deserted soldier, after the airplane attack. He is an overly scared child, and felt unsafe with the soldier, so he ran away from him as well and is feeling generally lost by now. According to the boy, he has been back to the town but he could not find his parents since they had left their flat. Larcher decides to take the boy with him and he is soon back in the town, which is nothing of its former self. All windows are barred and you can only see German soldiers here and there. They accidentally run in to a larger group of soldiers, dragging out a man from a house and executing him right in front of the Larcher family’s eyes. The “commandant” spots them and wants to know who they are. When he finds out that doctor Larcher used to sit on the council, he decides that Larcher’s family will be treated as hostages till the doctor has sorted out who it is that is shooting at the Germans and sabotaging. Larcher of course tries to find the mayor but is told that he has run off. It seems like he is the only one left, from the original council and very reluctantly he takes charge of the town’s affairs. He is told by the commandant that most of the citizens are hiding out in the church.
Doctor Larcher and his wife go in to the church, only to find a very dismal place. The stench is atrocious, there is no order at all, and as a doctor he sees his most important task being, taking care of the sick. He is met almost at the door, by his brother Marcel and his wife, them having been worried sick about their boy, and the worry having made Marcel’s wife sicker than usual. Dr. Larcher tells her that she needs to get out in the fresh air and rest, but his brother who has some sort of resentment for him, will not listen. Both he and his wife are communists and see Larcher and the establishment as their enemies. While the doctor moves on to a corner where they have set up a sort of “hospital/aid station”, his wife goes on the look for milk, for the baby. She finds a woman who is nursing he own baby and she lets Téquieró breastfeed as well. The young policeman Jean Merchetti, comments on how well Hortense have got back in to shape so soon after childbirth, and this is when it starts dawning on her, that she is getting very attached to the baby and that it hurts to say that he is not hers. She sets Jean straight, but when a nun comes up and wants to know where she got the baby from, she is reluctant to tell the truth. The nun is nasty and laughs at her ignorance, when she finally tells the circumstances around the baby’s birth and says the baby’s name is Téquieró. The nun telling her it is Spanish for I love you. Hortense couldn’t care less that there was a misunderstanding about his name. She is more concerned with the nun insisting that all orphans must be taken to the convent, so that parents or relatives can find them there. Hortense is getting panicked and devastated but there is nothing she and Daniel can do. The baby is ripped away from her and put in a pram with another baby, but the man doing so, realize that the other baby looks weird. The nun discovers that is has had diarrhoea and that it is dead. Dead from diphtheria and the disease is spreading like a rampart fire in the church. One by one people die, and the doctor has no medicine to give them. They have two doses of medicine left, only.
He is getting desperate. Marie, the farmer, had been working for days as a conscripted nurse but needed to get home to her children. And then he finds the bimbo Lucienne in the church, so he puts her to work, to create some sort of sorting system. That is really too much for her brain. Not only does the doctor’s brother want preferential treatment for his wife, but suddenly this young spoiled man, the son of some hobnob, shows up and also wants to go ahead of the queue. But when he sees pretty Lucienne, he decides that he can wait and help her instead creating a queue system. Suddenly a dead woman is carried in, embracing a diary in her arms. The young man walks up to her to try to find out a name for Lucienne and grabs the diary, starting to read it when he notices that the last thing she wrote was Téquieró. Lucienne begs for Larcher to write a death certificate and he looses his temper with her, but when he pulls the sheet off the woman’s face, he sees that it is Téquieró’s mother who has died of diphtheria. Good news for his wife!
In a moment of peace, the doctor and the police Jean, have walked around the church, disarming the people, which was one of the commandant’s orders. The ones who really have a weapon’s arsenal, are the communists and they only give up their weapons if they will receive morphine for their wounded. When such comes available of course. Suddenly there is a ruckus and the Germans storm in to the church. They are looking for a known communist and agitator and when they show the picture to the doctor, he does recognise the man, as the one he negotiated with, over the gun hand over and morphine deal. But he says nothing. Jean wonders if it is the right decision, but Larcher will not budge. The Germans walk around searching and when the communist spots them, he gets panicked, starts running behind people and the motion attracts the Germans’ attention. So they start shooting wildly. The communist is shot dead. And when Hortense and Larcher, gets back to the hospital part of the church, the first thing they see, is that so was the nun. Hortense rush to the pram and grabs Téquieró before anyone notices and that is when she smells that he has diarrhoea. She rushes to her husband who decides to give the boy one of the last doses of medicine and injecting it via the fontanelles so that it will take immediate effect. He sends his wife home with the boy.
While Marie has offered to help in the church with the sick, or having been conscripted, her lover Raymond is trying to survive in his own house, with his German guests having taken over every room but one. His wife is going bananas not having any alcohol to drink, and it seems like her husband knows nothing of her abuse? His only thoughts being on Marie, he manages to persuade her to have a final meeting with him. But after the lovers’ tryst, they still come to the conclusion that they can not be without each other. So, the affair goes on to the next episode I guess. To be continued… Exciting isn’t it? I hope I will have the names down better for my next post!