After the massively successful Amelie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet reteamed with Audrey Tautou for another film, one that couldn’t have been more opposite to their previous effort. A Very Long Engagement stars Tautou as Mathilde, a young French woman in love with her beloved Manech, who is shipped off to fight in World War I. After he intentionally gets shot in the hand in order to return home wounded, he is instead branded for execution, and along with a group of other self-mutilators, gets sent into the “no man’s land” between the frontlines of the two opposing forces to essentially make it as far as they can. Mathilde, however, never gives up hope that Manech is still alive, and begins her own investigations as to what happened after the men were loosed onto the battlefield, as well as uncovering the stories of the other men condemned to the same fate as Manech.
I’ll say first off, the film is an absolute marvel to watch. The cinematography is incredible, from the movement of the camera to the color palette used in each frame, nothing but the best is laid here for us to view. As I’ve also come to expect from a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film, the production value is outstanding, more than making up what room is left by the cinematography to really make the film’s mood and feel what it is. This film is a sensory experience from beginning to end; you just get overloaded with how wonderful it is to look at, that you can almost ignore when the film is being either too disjointed, or not immersive enough. That was the main problem I had with it; as pretty as it was to watch, most of the time I couldn’t have given a rat’s ass about what was actually happening. I was interested only enough to where I could follow the plot, and that was about it; the film just didn’t suck me in at all, and even when I was paying pretty good attention, the plot was so constantly falling over itself in this weird sort of jumble of information that I could barely keep anything straight enough to know where it was. What didn’t help, and this was something I expected (and got) from Jeunet’s previous films I’ve seen, was the film’s pension to elaborate almost too much on the various characters that make up the film, even the tiniest, most insignificant ones. If there’s a name mentioned, you can bet the film will spend a fraction of its time on a quick montage of that person and their life, even if the person is otherwise inconsequential to the main plot. I didn’t have too much of a problem with it in Amelie, and even less so in Delicatessen, mostly because it fit in with the construction of the film as a hodgepodge of characters; here, though, the plot was what I was supposed to be focusing on, but the film rarely did so.
That’s pretty much how I could sum up my viewing experience of A Very Long Engagement; beautiful to look at in just about every way, but I could barely keep interest in the actual plot of the film. I’m not quite sure how that would amount to an entertaining viewing for me, though; I liked it, just cause it appealed to my senses, but I don’t think I was really entertained by it. Even with how nice it was aesthetically, it still took me a couple of tries to get through the whole thing, so that’s not exactly a good selling point. You might have better luck than I did; I may have just not been in the right viewing mindset for this one. But still, gosh, was it gorgeous to watch.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10