There are no easy answers in A French Village.
It’s no plot spoiler to say that things get worse for just about everyone in Season 3 of A French Village (Un Village Francais), which covers the period from July to November 1942. In the opening minutes of the first episode, a train stops in Villeneuve, carrying 80 foreign Jews (wearing yellow stars and carrying suitcases and bedding) being transported to somewhere—rumors are that they are being taken to Poland, but no one knows for sure. Meanwhile, local members of the Resistance are printing posters in the schoolhouse, urging people to not collaborate with the occupying Germans.
If only it were so simple. The train is stranded in Villeneuve for a few days, and the passengers must be housed somewhere. Acting mayor Daniel Larcher (Robin Renucci) offers the schoolhouse, not knowing about the illicit printing press housed there. He also tries to obtain food for the prisoners (officially they are people in transit, but we know that they have no choice), but of course that’s a commodity already in short supply. Fortunately, Madame Morhange (Nathalie Cerda) is able to raise some money by allowing a German from the “Jewish Question Committee” to take body measurements of the stranded Jews, thus to ensure that they can at least be fed for a few days. So are Daniel and Madame Morhange evil collaborators or people who are doing their best to ease the suffering of people who have done nothing to deserve the ill treatment they are receiving? To take another dilemma, do the transported Jews have a duty to try to escape, or even the right to make the attempt, if the result will be worse treatment for those remaining behind?
There are no easy answers in A French Village, and as such it offers an interesting corrective to the simple solutions to complex problems being offered up in our current presidential campaign. Another point of interest—this series doesn’t give a free pass to the Resistance, who are shown to be at least as fallible as anyone else. There are also two varieties of Resistance fighters in the series, and the conflict between feeds into several key events in this season. On the one hand you have the National Front, who are loyal to Russia and want to create a Socialist France, and on the other you have the Gaullists, who mainly want the Germans to get out of their country and leave them in peace. Philosophical differences aside, rivalries and sexual interests also distract individual members of the Resistance from adhering to their ideals. Which is to say, they’re human just like anyone else.
There’s a rare action sequence in this season, a real cloak-and-dagger bit of business in which a young resistance fighter is tailed and arrested. What else happens in this season? Without giving too much away, Heinrich Müller (Richard Sammel) is back from the Russian front and is very persistent (well, he is a German) in his efforts to resume his relationship with Hortense (Audrey Fleurot). Beriot (François Loriquet) seeks marital advice at the local bordello, with excellent results. Daniel proves to be less than saintly (about time for that!), while Servier (Cyril Couton) and Marchetti (Nicolas Gob) both reveal themselves to be real pieces of work. And female characters continue to be given the most negative portrayals (among the French characters), an imbalance I’m still hoping will be corrected in future seasons. | Sarah Boslaugh
A French Village is distributed on DVD and streaming by MHZ Networks.