Directed by Bertrand Tavernier • 1989 • United States
Starring Philippe Noiret, Sabine Azéma, Pascale Vignal
With this gorgeously photographed antiwar epic, Bertrand Tavernier examines the emotional hurdles that separate rich from poor, history from truth, and regret from hope. A year after World War I has ended, cynical Major Delaplane (Philippe Noiret), tasked with identifying and interring thousands of fallen, anonymous French soldiers, has become reluctant shepherd to an ad hoc society of widows combing the French countryside for word of their loved ones. When a buried hospital train yields a fresh source of possibly recognizable bodies, Irène (Sabine Azéma), a haughty Parisian aristocrat, and Alice (Pascale Vignal), a hopeful young schoolteacher, form an unlikely alliance with the Major. As the train’s surprising cargo is revealed, the three searchers must choose between life in a postwar world stripped of illusions or the seductive self-imprisonment of mourning for days, lives, and loves gone by.