Director: Nicolas Vanier
Starring: Félix Bossuet, Tchéky Karyo, Margaux Châtelier
Released: 18 December, 2013, France
Last Friday, two of the French classes here at school took a trip to the city to watch Belle et Sébastien, which was showing as part of the French film festival. It was a lovely day and pretty much everyone greatly enjoyed the movie. The one thing everyone could definitely agree on was how cute Belle is! I’ve written a short movie review below.
Belle et Sébastien takes place in a small French village in 1943. The farmers in the village are on the hunt for a vicious wild dog that is killing their livestock. The dog was once abused, but escaped from its owner. Sébastien is a naïve six-year-old boy who often skips school to explore the beautiful mountains surrounding the tiny village in which he lives. It is in the mountains that Sébastien meets this ‘vicious’ dog for the first time, and of course, she is not nearly as dangerous as everyone thinks she is. He names her Belle (“beautiful”), and they begin to develop a deep bond.
Meanwhile, a war is going on and the Germans have occupied most of France. They are constantly spying on the village, as they suspect the villagers are helping Jewish refugees escape over the mountains into the safe land of Switzerland.
Belle et Sébastien is an immensely beautiful film; there is no dispute over that aspect of the filmmaking. The world of the French Alps provides an incredible backdrop for the events of this film, whether it is the snow-capped peaks of the mountains, the soft, waving green of the grassy fields (dabbed with spots of bright, colourful wildflowers), or the majestic, roaring waterfall in once scene that pours gently into a lazily trickling mountain stream. All of these images are incredibly beautiful, and for some may prove to be the highlight of the film.
The other, most charming part of this film is, simply, Belle. Three separate dogs played Belle, and all of them are as adorable as the other. It’s hard to watch Belle’s shenanigans without at least a small smile creeping across your face. She’s a massive dog, yes, but a very loveable one, and, funnily enough, one of the best characters in the movie. For a character without any dialogue, she manages to capture the attention slightly more than some other characters, and far more than a couple.
And now we come to the part of the review where I state what I didn’t like about the movie.
And, to be honest, there was only one major thing. This movie can be incredibly, and I mean incredibly, corny sometimes. The kind of corny that inspires loud laughter and almost veers into parody. Yes, it was actually that bad sometimes. Thankfully, the movie wasn’t consistently mushy, but there were a few scenes that I have to admit, made me giggle at the sheer silliness of it all. Of note is one very unexpected and rather bizarre scene that involves Belle and Sébastien running through a field of wildflowers while Sébastien sings an honestly awful ‘love ballad’in the background. That’s the main scene that was overly corny, however, and thankfully, the rest of the movie was much less cheesy.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this movie. Despite the corniness in parts, it was actually very sweet, with a good plot and reasonable acting across the board. The highlight of the movie was definitely Belle.
À bientôt 🙂