Prix Goncourt Winner-Turned-Film to Open in French Theaters
In 2013, Au revoir là-haut (éditions Albin Michel) by Pierre Lamaitre appeared in French bookstores, a sweeping epic chronicling the lives of two surviving combattants of World War I that enthralled readers and critics alike. The book sold 490,000 copies in 2013, earning Lemaitre the prestigious Prix Goncourt and the Prix Femina. In 2015, it was turned into a graphic novel. (Non-French speakers interested in discovering the book will find it translated as The Great Swindle.) On October 25, the film version hits French theaters. If it's anything like the book, it'll be worth seeking out.
Known primarily for his thrillers, Lemaitre took a vastly different literary approach with Au revoir là-haut, choosing instead to examine life in the wake of war while also exploring the sometimes inexplicable bonds of friendship forged during traumatizing events. The story centers around Albert and Edouard, two poilus--the informal term for World War I infantrymen--who soon discover that postwar France can offer nothing to soothe veterans returning from the battlefields with unimaginable physical and emotional traumas. Rejected and excluded by the country they put their lives on the line to save, the unlikely duo turn their bitterness into an audacious scam that exacts sweet, cynical revenge on the country they sacrificed so much to protect.
"I tried to serve as a sincere and honest intermediary between my contemporaries and those I describe in the book," Lemaitre said during a 2013 interview with RTL. L'Express book reviewer François Busnel called it a "major existential work, a somber and burning requiem that serves up splendidly effective writing like a punch straight in the face."
The film's producer Albert Dupontel was a huge fan of the book and envisioned this project along the lines of "a well-executed HBO movie." (In fact, the $22-million dollar budget for Dupontel's movie cost roughly the same as the pilot episode of Martin Scorsese's Boardwalk Empire.)
Though the trailer is not subtitled, it is a tantalizing morsel for what is sure to be a monumental film. A fascinating exploration of a tumultuous moment in history, Au revoir là-haut may very well hit the literary jackpot of being a success both in print and on screen.