The film is about Philippe Gerbier, a civil engineer living in France in 1942. He is one of the French Resistance's chiefs, but it given away by a traitor and captured at a camp. He manages to escape and joins his network of other Resistance force, where they start to work together again.
I think the movie was so interesting to me because a different and less skilled director might have made this into a heroic sort of story, or something very inspiring. I like that this is very blunt about how difficult it is to keep hope alive in your heart during struggles. It's realistic instead of just glorifying, you know? It's also not really a war movie, like you would expect. It was slow, but I liked that the slow pace allowed me to see the difficulties that the group of Resistance fighters faced. It's not always easy to keep going when people are dying all around you, and things seem so pointless.
Ebert writes about this in his essay, saying, "His film is about the war within the minds of Resistance members, who must live with constant fear, persist in the face of futility, accept the deaths of their comrades and expect no reward, except the knowledge that they are doing the right thing. Because many die under false names, their sacrifices are never known; in the film, two brothers never discover that they are both in the Resistance, and one dies anonymously" (Great Movies III, 27-28). It's so hard to keep doing the right thing when you can't see that a difference is being made. Like I said, a weaker film might have tries to gloss over this uncomfortable fact, but I loved that the director went with the more difficult and challenging approach. It really made for a much more beautiful and wonderful film.
I want to write more, but I'm afraid to keep going - that's probably when the power would go out, or I'd pass out with my head mashed onto my netbook. I think I was able to hit about the best part of the movie for me, though. It was such a unique and interesting movie. It's not packed with action or excitement, but it does have some really important insights into the human spirit. It's so masterful, I really loved it. I hope that if you haven't seen this, you check it out some time when you are in the mood for a slower film.
Have any thoughts on Army of Shadows? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Army of Shadows
Buy it on Amazon