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LE PETIT SOLDAT

Aka ‘The Little Soldier’

Jean-Luc Godard | 1960/63 | 88 MINS
France | Subtitles
During the Algerian war of independence, a young Frenchman living in Geneva and belonging to a right-wing terrorist group falls in love with a young woman from a left-wing terrorist group.

In Detail

‘Le Petit Soldat' is a controversial spy-romance, which was banned in France for three years on account of its unflinching portrayal of the Franco-Algerian conflict. The film follows Bruno (Michel Subor), a disillusioned young deserter who becomes involved in the French nationalist movement despite his lack of deep political beliefs. Under orders, he kills an Algerian sympathiser and is then captured and tortured.

When he meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman, Veronica Dreyer (Anna Karina appearing in her first film role), he does not realise that she is fighting for the other side. Godard, in 1960, making a film about the Algerian War, was portraying the sort of intellectual and moral confusion that good men have when they confront senseless events.

Given this attitude, it might seem strange that ‘Le Petit Soldat’ is funny, but it is, for long stretches. Banned until the censoring French ruling party was overthrown, it is as relevant today as it was in 1963. It is impossible to watch without thinking of Guantanamo, of extraordinary rendition and (explicitly) of waterboarding.

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