Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
At the core of this docudrama are six French-speaking villages that were transferred to the jurisdiction of a Dutch-speaking province when political lines were drawn. The director of Le Grand Paysage d'Alexis Droeven (Jean-Jacques Andrien) was born and raised in this area and filmed scenes of the demonstrations that took place when the transfer occurred -- scenes that are used in the film. Additional background on the region emerges as the viewer sees that the economic policies dictated by the European Common Market intensify the cultural clashes in this zone because the policies often damage the earnings of the farming community -- and the farmers have no way to alter the ECM mandates. The film conveys a good sense of these issues that threaten the way of life of the small community, and at the same time, a mini-drama plays out against this backdrop. The drama begins with the death of an elderly farmer and unfolds over the four days that elapse between his death, the funeral rites, and the day following the burial. The son in the family, Jean-Pierre Droeven (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) must make a decision about the family's milk-producing cattle farm -- should he sell it and move out of this politically blighted region? His Aunt Elisabeth (Nicole Garcia) has her own views on the decision. She is a lawyer, and lives in the city of Liege, long since abandoning the small farming community herself. As the son and aunt interact with each other, their perspectives begin to shift, unsettling questions arise as to their real roots, and they find that even the memories of their dead father are not always in agreement. Through its in-depth probing of ordinary human situations, the film conveys a sense of dignity and meaning to lives that are beset by forces they cannot control.
abandonment, death, demonstration [political], farming, funeral, inheritance, lawyer, politician