L’armée des ombres [Army of Shadows] (1969)

<strong class="MovieTitle">L’armée des ombres</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">Army of Shadows</strong>] (1969)

(On TV, October 2018) The popular depiction of the WW2 French Resistance is usually heroic, portraying them as virtuous stalwart fighters against the occupying Nazi regime. But the reality wasn’t so rosy nor clear-cut, and writer/director Jean-Pierre Melville knew better than most, having witnessed it firsthand. So when he tackled the topic in L’armée des ombres, he did so with a complete lack of romanticism. The French Resistance here is made of anti-heroes, cruel and doomed at the same time. It’s a rough business, and death is seldom clean. Their activities are sordid, set against ugly backdrops and the constant threats of betrayal from fellow Frenchmen. There are a few heroics, but they almost come across as accidents with terrible consequences. A sombre and anti-glamorous cinematography further reinforces the intended realism of the film. L’armée des ombres is certainly not a pleasant viewing experience, but it does offer a different view of the Resistance, something that usually remains an unexamined plot device in other, lesser movies.

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