Synopsis by Jonathan Crow
Acclaimed French filmmaker Olivier Assayas follows up on the international success of Fin août, début septembre and Irma Vep with this sweeping adaptation of the sprawling three-volume tome by Jacques Chardonne. Set in three chapters spanning from the beginning of the 1900s to after WWI, the first section takes place in the fictional village of Barbazac, located in the Cognac region. Protestant pastor Jean Barnery (Charles Berling) learns of his wife Nathalie's (Isabelle Huppert) infidelity from the village grapevine and sends his daughter away. At the same time, 20-year-old Pauline (Emmanuelle Beart) returns to the village after the death of her father. Pauline and Jean are almost immediately attracted to each other when they first meet at a ball. Soon Jean installs Nathalie and their daughter in an apartment, files for divorce, and resigns as minister. The second chapter opens with Pauline visiting Jean, who is bedridden in a Parisian hotel from tuberculosis. Upon his recovery, they marry and live for a spell in Switzerland, until Jean's family entreat him to return to Limoges and take over the floundering family porcelain business. The final chapter opens with bombs of WWI: Jean is sent to the front, while Pauline works as a nurse. When the war finally draws to a close, Jean struggles to keep the business afloat. He raises the ire of his workers and stockholders alike by freezing wages and slashing dividends, but his fastidious attention to detail soon makes his company the finest producer of porcelain in Europe. Yet as the economic climate of the continent slowly worsens, so does his business -- and his health. This film was first screened at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.
family-business, daughter, porcelain, romance, wife, minister, Protestant