A powerful portrayal of Second World War politics and beliefs. The story shows the French response to the impending danger of Hitlers troops, with a rousing recruitment drive held in the North African countries of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
The film follows the lives of four men who, like many others at the time, willingly joined the French Army. To some the prospect of being paid was an important part, but there was no doubt that the recruits intention was to help defeat the fascist threat.
The film offers the stark contrast of their homelands, to that of the French countryside, food, and way of life, but more importantly the attitude toward North African people within the French army structure. Predjudices are shown through the many inequalities metered out to them from second rate food to inadiquate boots, lack of time off, and medical care, while mail was routinely lost.
These men subsiquently found themselves fighting for a country most had never visited. Now enlisted, novices to infantry fighting and army life, the only option was to make a stand for their rights, whilst facing gruelling physical and emotional tests, as they fought their way across Europe finding allegience amongst themselves.
The film is strong in its core concept and this has been made all the more poignant, with the subsequent change of pension laws for North African Ex Service men by Jack Chirac after their pension rights had been abandoned by successive governments since the war.
Honored at the Cannes film festival.
One scene shows the dilema these men must have faced. Two of the men find themselves in a Church alone, unfamiliar with the religious artefacts. One sees the collection box and starts to empty it, the other suggests it is maybe for the poor. Understanding he puts it back, but then asks the other about the terrible violence that was inflicted upon their families to colonise their country, what did they (the French) call it, it was called the suppression of the insurgents replies the other.