Un Village Francais: Season 1, episodes 3-4

Episode 3 of “Un Village Francais” starts with the Kommendant officially complaining to dr. Daniel Larcher, who has now become mayor of the town Villeneuve, that there has been sabotage done to the Germans’ communication lines at the boy school. He wants the saboteur found and punished and demands a list with men from 20 different households on it. These will be hostages until the saboteur is found, and will be demanded to patrol all night, every night, by the railway lines, so no sabotage is made to them.

Larcher sits down to write this list and he puts himself on top. As a matter of fact the Germans raise more than one eyebrow, when they see the list, since the mayor has put himself at the very top and his head of police, De Kerven, second. Putting themselves at risk of course if the culprit is not found and more sabotage is committed.

Raymond Schwartz, the owner of the lumber yard, is one of the few people who have an Ausweis, to move between Vichy and Occupied France.  When he is told there is a telegram for Marie Germain, his mistress and passion, he finds an excuse to cross over to Vichy France, and hand deliver the telegram to her. But he does not get very far. The crossing is closed because of the sabotage, so Marie has to be sent for and he gets to hand her the telegram over the gate. Her husband Lorrain Germain is dead and while Marie breaks down on one side of the gate, Raymond can do nothing but look at her from the occupied zone of the border. Hurting and wanting to be with her.

At school, the board has arrived to have an interview with young school mistress Lucienne Broderie, who is being blamed for taking the children out on a dangerous picnic, on the day the Germans arrived, and for the death of two children, when they were attacked by a single German fighter plane. Lucienne is terrified and headmaster Madame Morhange has promised to be there and help her along and testify of her innocence. But at the same time, as the two members of the school board arrive, who tend to be on the anti-Semitic side of things, head of police, De Kerven, arrives to investigate a theft. Madame Morhange has to leave the room and asks them to wait for her.

While she explains to Henri De Kerven, that half a ham, some quince confectionary and honey have been stolen from the kitchen, during the night, the board ignores her wishes to wait with the interview of Lucienne. Under extreme pressure, they make Lucienne feel so bad and so guilty, that she signs a confession as Madame Morhange enters the room. And there is nothing Madame Morhange can do to help her from there on.

It is soon clear to the viewer that the bitter, deserted French soldier named Jacques according to Wikipedia, who helped Marcel Larcher’s little boy Gustave, on the day of the occupation, is the thief. He obviously is hungry and climbed on the telephone cords outside the school building, to get in to the school’s kitchen, to steal the food. Ripping some of the cords off the wall in the process. But we know more than the town’s people!

Marcel Larcher, communist and also brother of the new mayor, Dr. Daniel Larcher, is called in to communist service, by his party members. He is told to risk his life and cross the border at 21:00, to meet a known communist on the Vichy side. He is not too happy about it, having a sick wife at home and a little son, and the curfew having been moved to 18:00, because of the sabotage. But he is true to the cause and plans on going, telling his son that he must not tell anyone.

Lots of things happen that evening. First of all, the Kommendant instructs the 20 men, what to do. None of them are excited about their task and they feel rather foolish, since they are supposed to patrol the railway line without weapons. If anything happens, if they find someone, they are supposed to shout for the German soldiers to come,who are supposed to keep close by. An absolutely idiotic plan. The kommendant, finds it very strange that some of the most influential men in the town are among the 20 and he takes the opportunity to imagetalk to Raymond Schwartz. He points out to him that the occupation is a fact and that he doesn’t really want to be there either, but it is both of their duty to make the best of the situation. He wants to fix the school up for his soldiers, the part they are in, and needs timber. Schwartz can provide him with this, and while Raymond Schwartz is not too keen to work with the Germans, he is promised petrol and even more important a new Ausweis that will work! The Ausweis being necessary in order to be able to go see Marie!

During the night patrol, chaos soon breaks out. The deserted soldier Jacques tries to cross over to Vichy France and a fierce argument breaks out between the French and the non-French speaking German soldiers, who is going to be allowed to arrest him or rather take him in to custody. Head of police De Kerven gets so terribly upset by the ordeal, that he gets a heart attack and has to be taken to the doctor’s house. The entire chaos saves Marcel Larcher’s life though, since he was also out, to cross the border right there, to see his important communist contact.

When Raymond Schwartz gets home to his wife, he tells her of the Kommendant’s business deal and she is all for it, even though he has qualms. She wants to eat better than they can by now, their cook hardly being able to find a thing at the market. To her it is all about money and she is used to having plenty and abstain from nothing. She can only see advantages. So Raymond of course agrees to the deal, which means petrol and Ausweis for him but he in return has to give the Germans a list of all his workers and a floor plan of his “factory”.

When De Kerven comes down to the Larcher breakfast table, he notices that they have no problems with getting food. As a matter of fact he is served ham and he is told that the cook had bought it on the black market for a lot of money. De Kerven knows to go back to the school and talk to the custodian Marek, who lives in a shed on the premises. Poor Marek says that he saw a thief run off, dropping a bag with the ham and honey in it. He sold the items, since he needed the money. But there was no candy in the bag. De Kerven arrests Marek, since the Germans want results and he thinks that Marek is safe, but not so. He is forced to hand him over to the Germans instead of Marek getting judged by a French court and when he complains to under-prefect Servier, this man says “Who cares about a foreigner anyway. We have to protect the French people, our own.”

With Marek, in the cell, sat the deserted soldier Jacques, and when De Kerven has seen Marek being taken off in a German military transport, he lets the soldier out. He sees a candy wrapper on the floor, exactly the sort of candy which had gone missing from the school, but he doesn’t make the connection. Nor does he call the soldier back to ask him about it.

De Kerven’s discovery at the breakfast table is not the only disruption of that meal. Larcher receives a phone call and has to rush off. He has been called to Marcel Larcher’s household. Marcel has not arrived home yet. When he does, he finds his son, his brother and a priest in the room of his wife Micheline. He gets furious with his brother for having called in a priest and Daniel just tells him that the boy was home alone, his mother dying and after all she was born a Catholic. Micheline has died and Gustave never disclosed anything about the secret meeting his dad had been to and why he was home alone.

Episode 4:

15 October 1940

Our deserted soldier, Jacques, can’t stay away from crime. When the episode starts, he is smuggling a family of Jews, over to Vichy France but demands more money than was agreed on. They do not have the money and while they argue about what to do, how to get to Marseilles, Jacques sees a parachute coming down from a crashing plane and just takes off, leaving the poor Jews standing there, not knowing what to do next and where to go.

Farmer Marie and Raymond of the lumber yard, carries on their love affair without any worries. He easily can go visit her now in her home, thanks to the Ausweis, and he tells her after their love-making in this episode, that he can drive her to where she needs to go. On their way towards town, they run in to Jacques who stops them and forces them to help him with the RAF pilot. It is agreed that the pilot needs medical attention and Jacques will not let them both leave for help. Raymond is allowed to go in search for someone who will not talk while Marie stays behind to try to wash the pilot’s wounds.

While Marcel Larcher, sits and puts together communist propaganda, on order from his Vichy France comrades, his brother the mayor, sits and writes out official orders in French, which he has received from Kommendant von Ritter, about the punishments, which will be inforced if any French person helps British pilots. He also receives a second nasty shock that morning. Outside his door, stands a man claiming to be Téquiéro’s father.The man explains that his wife Carlotta gave birth in Villeneuve according to a soldier that he ran in to in Besancon. The soldier clearly told him that the doctor had handed her over to him, in order to take her to a field hospital. Dr./Mayor Larcher tells him that there was no obstetrician in Villeneuve that day and send the man packing. But he is worried, since both he and his wife have grown very attached to the baby.

The pilot in the hut is now awake and wonders if he is in Vichy France and when he is told that he is in the occupied zone, he understands what danger he is in. The Germans are getting closer and closer to the hut, since they have found the crashed airplane. Marie is getting nervous and wants to go find a doctor or turn the pilot over to the Germans, to save themselves and give him a chance to survive his wounds. Meanwhile, Raymond is doing his best but he has been stopped by von Ritter, who has an important guest who wants to see the lumber yard. Raymond wants to prevent them from finding the pilot, as long as he can, so he drives them down on a muddy road on purpose, in order to make them cancel all their plans and let him go do what he wants to do.

Marcel Larcher is breaking the law as well, secretly handing out his recruitment propaganda letters, in everybody’s mail boxes. He keeps doing this until a man steps out of his house and notices what he is doing. Now there is a witness who can report him! He takes off running, like a hunted rabbit.

Téquiéro’s father has headed for the police station, where he informs policeman Jean Marchetti, that dr. Larcher is a lier when he says that he did not deliver a baby on the 12 June, when the father has been told the opposite. Jean, who is VERY fond of Hortense Larcher, can’t take his eyes off the woman as a matter of fact, tries to tell the father that if the doctor can’t find any births in his papers for that day, there were none.

By now, the deserted soldier Jacques has let Marie run off to get a doctor, since noone has arrived with one. She has to lie to Larcher to get him to come along and he is shocked when he realizes what sort of risk she has put them both in, when they reach the hut. But before they reach the hut, the pilot has shown a photo of his wife and child, to Jacques, trying to communicate with a non-English speaker. Jacques understands though, that the pilot loves his family and he starts talking about his own life, not really to the pilot but just to reminisce. He tells us all that he once was married and loved his wife very much. But he never told her so or let her know. Instead he worked too much, all the time. Leaving her on her own too much. Then one day, when he came home unexpectedly, he found her in bed with another man. He lost his temper and beat the man half to death, including breaking his nose. “And then I lost my patience with her screaming and …”. He doesn’t say it, but it basically sounded like he killed his wife. His loud thoughts are interrupted when he hears the Germans getting closer with their dogs and he decides to try to carry the pilot to safety, to Vichy. But the pilot is heavy and they do not manage to get very far. They have left by the time Larcher and Marie arrive and Larcher firmly tells Marie that the war is over and that she must not take any risks what so ever. At the same time, Jacques realizes that he can not save them both, and the pilot understands. He gives the soldier his wedding ring and begs him to take it back to his wife in England. Jacques doesn’t understand a word, but puts on the ring and tries to cover over the pilot with leaves before he runs off. But it doesn’t matter. The pilot is dead.

Raymond, stuck at the lumber yard, with the Germans, suddenly receives a guest. The deceased Lorrain Germain, husband of Marie, stands there in front of him and asks him to take him to Marie. He and a couple of mates, had walked by some corpses a month earlier and had stolen the dead people’s identity discs, so they could escape. All soldiers ending up in POW camps. Raymond being their landlord, can hardly refuse to help Lorrain and takes him across the line to Vichy via the official crossing on the bridge outside the town. He has become friendly with a guard on the bridge, who happily lets them cross since he is on his way home on leave. And when they get to the Vichy side of the bridge and Raymond says “French soldier who has escaped”, the French guards happily say “Bravo!” and let them both through.

imageJean Marchetti has gone home to talk to Hortense Larcher, meanwhile, and he wants to know how far she is willing to go, in order to keep Téquiéro. She wants to know what he means by this and he tells her that the police is on the lookout for an escaped convict. The father of the baby fits the description perfectly and he does not have any papers anymore to prove who he is, which means that Jean can have him locked away for anything between 6 months to a year. Hortense wants to know why he wants to help her and says that nothing is ever for free. Jean looks at her with love and says that he likes the Larchers and that he feels that the baby would be better off with them. He adds that the only thing he wants from her is total silence. “Should I make the phone call?”. -“Yes, yes” is the answer Hortense gives him. And the man’s fate is sealed.

At the Germain farm, Marie gets excited when she sees Raymond’s car, thinking that a moment of passion will ensue. She is not prepared to see her husband, and has to do everything to disguise her feelings for Raymond and pretend to be excited about Lorrain’s return, Raymond having to try to do the same thing. Lorrain’s suspicions are almost aroused at once, since she is not jumping for joy.

In town, Madame Morhange at the school, comes to talk to Lucienne. The school board members open anti-Semitism had its explanation. She has been fired from her headmaster’s job, since the new Jewish law in Occupied France, forbids her to continue work in state facilities. Lucienne is shocked and Madame Morhange bitter. But she turns to Lucienne and says “As for you, they can’t fire all Jewish teachers or there will not be any teachers left”. Cryptic. Did it mean that Lucienne is also Jewish? Or bad Swedish translation from the French?

De Kerven enters the school a moment later to talk to Madame Morhange, but she is gone, with suitcase and everything, so he has to ask Lucienne a favour. He needs someone to wash the dead pilot, for burial. Lucienne reluctantly says yes. De Kerven sets off after Madame Morhange and catches up with her at the town square, where parents are saying goodbye to her. He asks if she has anywhere to go. She says she has relatives in Paris but he tells her of this man who has committed suicide. The heirs are bickering over his flat and meanwhile, she can go live there, since the solicitor says it can take years before they sort out who is the rightful owner to the flat. Madame Morhange gratefully thanks him and agrees to his offer. While they walk off to the flat…

Daniel Larcher arrives home to find his wife Hortense and baby Téquiéro in the bath tub. He is tired and says that they are his only joy. He tells her that he is contemplating adopting the baby. She asks him, guilty faced, if he did not see Jean? “The man who came here was not Téquiéro’s father after all. A case of mistaken identity. We need not to have worried.”

At the school, Lucienne has to face a naked, dead man covered in blood. She is scared and starts singing to herself, to calm her own nerves.

And that is how Thursday’s two episodes broadcast back to back ended. It is difficult to say what one thinks. I think that the most offensive thing in the series, is the usage of “israelite”. It shows how prevalent the Anti-Semitism was among everyone. And why call them “Israelite” when the French word is “Juif”? Is it a modern day thing or was that what they called them back in 1940? I have no idea. I just know that if you call a Jew an Israelite today, you are telling the Jew that might be a citizen of your own country, that he or she doesn’t belong anywhere but in Israel. And when the Israelis do something which the rest of the world does not approve of, that same Jew will be attacked and held responsible. If I was a Jew, I would not want to be called an Israelite unless I was born and raised in Israel! The show so far does not show any real hatred for Jewish Madame Morhange, but it does show a deeply ingrained attitude of the French of not feeling that the Jews were part or complete citizens of their country. Good to show in this day and age! As a warning!

The show also shows how quickly people started to perhaps not take sides, but show their true selves. The rich seeing the advantages of cooperating with the Germans, money-wise but also comfort wise. Marcel Larcher, who before was fighting the establishment, suddenly sees a bigger enemy in the Germans. Which is most important? Your country or your ideology? His communist comrades in Vichy, doesn’t see the Germans as any enemies. Only the Nazis are, and the propaganda they have him spread is that London and Vichy are equally bad enemies. He is having his doubts though. He is not as pleased with the Germans as his comrades seem to be. And while the head of police really detest running the Germans’ errands and feel that they can get away with not doing all the things the Germans order them to do, trying to keep their integrity intact, dr. Larcher is scared of doing anything wrong and feels that his hands are completely tied. He does not dare to do anything wrong. Hm…



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