The long running series A French Village (Un village français) has 7 seasons. This French series is about a fictional village near the French border with Switzerland and what happened there during the German occupation from 1940 to 1945.
I’ve only had time to watch season 1 so far, but this dramatic and heart-wrenching true story is instantly bingeable. When the German military take over a village and grind everyone under their guns, the villagers have to adapt immediately.
Daniel Larcher (Robin Renucci) is the village doctor and takes the leadership role of mayor. His wife Hortense (Audrey Fleurot) is quick to adopt an orphaned newborn. These two do as much good for the people around them as they can, but they are not so clear on their moral duty when the father of the infant shows up.
Raymond Schwartz (Thierry Godard) is probably the wealthiest man in town. He runs a lumber mill and is quick to make a profitable deal with the Germans. He’s cheating on his wife (Emmanuelle Bach) with a local farmer’s wife named Marie (Nade Dieu). But he goes out of his way to help people.
These two main characters could represent good and evil in the village, but the characters are more nuanced than that. Characters are finely drawn as they resist, adapt, or collaborate in order to survive.
Jean Marchetti (Nicolas Gob) is a young police inspector. He and Chief Inspector De Kervern (Patrick Descamps) make up a police department with almost no authority after the Germans arrive. Marchetti takes up residence at Dr. Larcher’s house.
Lucienne (Marie Kremer) is a local teacher. She took a class on a field trip on the day the Germans attacked, with disastrous results. The father of one of her students, Marcel (Fabrizio Rongione), is a Communist agitator. Marcel and Daniel Larcher are brothers.
There are many children in the story who do a fine acting job, particularly Gustave (Maxim Driesen), Marcel’s son.
There isn’t much humor in this war story, but a name that struck me funny is name of the Larcher’s adopted orphan son. The mother spoke Spanish and said, “Te quiero,” to her newborn before she died. Dr. Larcher, who only spoke French, thought the child’s name was Tequiero. So they called him that. Every time someone said it, I had to grin.
There are more characters with individual storylines among the villagers. There are themes of antisemitism, loyalty, political action, and courage as the first season progresses.
We see who will take a risk to help others (such as an English pilot who drops in their midst). We see who will turn on others to save themselves over something as trivial as booing in a movie. Twists and turns as the months roll by reveal characters willing to carry intelligence reports, or work in the black market, or have love affairs with unsuitable partners.
The situation is cauldron of danger and emotion. A French Village (Un village français) does a wonderful job of turning that into compelling drama. The series was created by Frédéric Krivine with help from historical consultant Jean-Pierre Azéma. Everything about the series looks authentic and historically correct.
History buffs will enjoy this series, and it provides many human stories of love and endurance.
It’s interesting to compare this French production about life under the Nazis with the German production Charité. Neither are shy about pointing out the political dangers of the authoritarian regime the Nazis ran.
The entire series is available on Prime Video and Hulu. It may be available on some PBS stations. It’s in French with subtitles. The German is not subtitled, leaving us in the dark as much as the villagers when the Germans speak. Some of the German officers speak French, however.
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I couldn’t find a good trailer for season 1, but here’s a teaser showing you some of the characters and scenes you can expect.
Have you seen any of A French Village (Un village français)? I’m ready to watch all 7 seasons. Have you done that?