Friday, March 26, 2010

Gillian Armstrong's "Charlotte Gray" (2001)

The film follows in the tradition of making a love story out of war material. The eponymous character (Cate Blanchett) signs up to be a British courier in occupied France in order to search for her downed pilot lover Peter (gorgeous Rupert Penry Jones). Working with a local resistance leader Julien (Billy Crudup), Charlotte learns that war kills and makes fools of those it spares. Aided by British treachery, the local resistance, all communists, were killed by the Germans. Julien has to decide between giving up his father Levade (Michael Gambon) and two Jewish children he has been hiding to the French collaborationist police.

The cruelties of war are heart-wrenching, but not particularly new. More interesting is what the film says about love. Love with the pilot was instantaneous and physical. It was powerful enough to motivate a woman to put her life on the line by going into service. But the awful experience shared with Julien finally binds Charlotte more closely to him than romance, sex and security. The shared knowledge of the horrors one has faced and done. The ignorance of all others. It helps that Blanchett is beautiful and Crudup good-looking, but the psychological outcome of their scarring experience does not need external beauty for its justification.

Directed by Gillian Armstrong, the film is based on a novel by Sebastian Faulks.

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