Review: Memoir of War


Based on Marguerite Duras’s memoir, this excellent film tells the story of those waiting for the return of their loved ones who had been taken to WWII death camps. Some arrested returned, yet others did not. What was life like for those who waited? How did they cope with the emaciated, scarred bodies of those who survived? How did they cope with the information about those who did not?

Just a couple of months before D-Day, Marguerite is contacted by the Gestapo official who arrested her husband, Richard. Ostensibly, he wants to know more about the Resistance movement Richard was a part of in exchange for information about him and potential leniency in his detainment. In turn, she becomes addicted to seeing him as he is the closest to her husband she can get. Yet, she is fearful he will discover that she is also a member of the Resistance and through her arrest its members.

Duras’s life and success as a writer and intellectual is sharply illuminated in her self-revelation as a woman conflicted by love, trauma, loyalty, and courage. The character of Marguerite, reminiscent of tragic-ridden Julie Christi in “Dr. Zhivago,” is played with building angst and conflicted courage by Mélanie Thierry as she chain-smokes her way through her all-male associations in the Resistance. Eventually, she becomes almost as thin and as emaciated as the prisoner she hopes still survives.

Award-winning director, Emmanuel Finkiel, gets all the pieces right in this remarkable treasure. The 1940 dress, environment, re-enactments and liberation of Paris are realistic. The acting by every character is stunning in its depth and thoughtfulness. But most important is the script, taken from the memoir of Marguerite Duras. She reveals her own inner conflicts, fears, and emotions that parallel the world’s own reaction to the Holocaust, with honesty, acknowledgment of complicity and attempt at compensation.

A celebrated writer, Duras, born in Indo-China, became famous in France as a writer, screenwriter, playwriter, and director. She had degrees in law and politics and for ten years was known as a radical leftist in the French Communist Party. “Memoir of War” is an exquisite tribute to a writer forever dedicated to a common good for all people.

    Marguerite Duras: Mélanie Thierry
    Pierre Rabier: Benoît Magimel
    Dionys Mascolo: Benjamin Biolay
    Mme Katz: Shulamit Adar
    François Mitterrand, alias François Morland: Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet
    Robert Antelme: Emmanuel Bourdieu

    Director/Screenwriter: Emmanuel Finkiel
    Producer: Yael Fogiel & Laetitia Gonzalez
    Cinematographer: Alexis Kavyrchine
    Editor: Sylvie Lager
    Production Designer: Pascal Leguellec
    Costume Designer: Anaïs Romand & Sergio Ballo
    Composer: Nicolas Becker

    Based on the memoir by: Marguerite Duras

    Production Year: 2017
    Release Date: Aug. 17, 2018
    Countries of Production: Belgium, France, Switzerland
    Language: French with English subtitles
    Running Time: 2h 7m
    Where to see:

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