Suite Française (film)
|Directed by||Saul Dibb|
|Based on||Suite française|
by Irène Némirovsky
|Music by||Rael Jones|
|Edited by||Chris Dickens|
|Budget||€15 million ($20 million)|
|Box office||$9.3 million|
Suite Française is a 2015 British-French-Belgian war romantic drama film directed by Saul Dibb and co-written with Matt Charman. It is based on the second part of Irène Némirovsky's 2004 novel of the same name. The film stars Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott Thomas, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sam Riley, Ruth Wilson, Lambert Wilson and Margot Robbie. It concerns a romance between a French villager and a German soldier during the early years of the German occupation of France. Suite Française was filmed on location in France and Belgium. It was released theatrically in the UK on 13 March 2015 and premiered in the US through Lifetime cable network on 22 May 2017.
In German-occupied France, Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams) and her domineering mother-in-law Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas) await news of her husband Gaston, who was serving in the French Army. While visiting tenants, Lucile and Madame Angellier escape an air raid by German Ju 87 stuka bombers. Following the French surrender, a regiment of German soldiers arrives, and promptly moves into the homes of the villagers.
Wehrmacht Oberleutnant Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts) is billeted at the Angelliers' household. Lucile tries to ignore Bruno but is charmed by his kind demeanor and his piano music. Lucile later learns that her husband Gaston's unit has been imprisoned at a German labor camp. Elsewhere, the farmer Benoit (Sam Riley) and his wife Madeleine (Ruth Wilson) chafe under the German officer Kurt Bonnet (Tom Schilling), who harasses Madeleine. Benoit, who was denied the chance to fight because of his leg wound, hides a rifle. As an act of resistance, he steals the German soldiers' clothes while they are bathing.
When Lucile discovers that one of her mother-in-law's tenants Celine (Margot Robbie) is having sex with a German soldier, Celine reveals that Gaston has been having an extramarital affair and has fathered a girl named Simone. Angry with Madame Angellier for withholding her son's indiscretions, Lucile develops romantic feelings for Bruno and he gives her a piece of his music score. At Lucile's request, Bruno confronts Kurt over his harassment. Lucile's relationship with Bruno draws the hostility of many of the townfolk.
The Viscountess de Monfort (Harriet Walter) later catches Benoit stealing a chicken from her coop. When Benoit points a gun at her, she tells her husband, the collaborationist Viscount de Monfort (Lambert Wilson), who sends German soldiers after Benoit. While hiding in a barn, Benoit kills Kurt with his gun and flees into the forest.
The Germans launch a manhunt and give the townsfolk 48 hours to surrender Benoit. The German Major (Heino Ferch) takes the Viscount hostage and threatens to execute him if Benoit is not found. At Madeleine's request, Lucile hides Benoit in the attic of the Angellier mansion with the help of the reluctant Madame Angellier. Despite a massive manhunt, the Germans fail to capture Benoit and the Viscount is executed by firing squad.
With the Germans planning to withdraw from the town, Lucile takes part in a plan to smuggle Benoit into Paris, where the French Resistance is gathering. She manages to convince Bruno to issue her travel pass to Paris. However, Bruno's suspicious orderly suspects that Lucile is harboring Benoit and issues special instructions for the checkpoint guards to search her car.
At the checkpoint, Benoit manages to shoot the German soldiers dead with his pistol but is wounded in the shoulder. Bruno arrives on a motorcycle. Lucile faces him with her pistol but is unable to kill him. To Lucile's relief, Bruno helps her lift the wounded Benoit into the car and allows them to escape to Paris. As she drives away, Lucile smiles at Bruno in gratitude. Lucile and Benoit later join the French resistance and help drive out the Germans. While Lucile later learns that Bruno perished during the war, she treasures the memory of his musical score Suite Française.
- Michelle Williams as Lucile Angellier
- Kristin Scott Thomas as Madame Angellier, Lucile Angellier's mother-in-law
- Matthias Schoenaerts as Oberleutnant Bruno Von Falk
- Sam Riley as Benoit Labarie, Madeleine's husband
- Ruth Wilson as Madeleine Labarie, Benoit's wife
- Lambert Wilson as Viscount de Montmort
- Clare Holman as Marthe
- Margot Robbie as Celine
- Alexandra Maria Lara as Leah, Anna's mother
- Harriet Walter as Viscountess de Montmort
- Eileen Atkins as Denise Epstein
- Tom Schilling as Oberleutnant Kurt Bonnet
- Eric Godon as Monsieur Joseph, Celine's father
- Deborah Findlay as Madame Joseph, Celine's mother
- Diana Kent as Madame Michaud
- Cédric Maerckx as Gaston Angellier, Lucile's husband and Madame Angellier's son
Conception and adaptation
On 9 November 2006, Michael Fleming from Variety reported that the rights to Irène Némirovsky's novel Suite Française (written during the Nazi occupation of France but published posthumously in 2004) had been acquired by Universal Pictures. Ronald Harwood, who wrote the script for The Pianist, was set to write the screenplay, with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall producing the film. The following year, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels acquired the rights to the novel from publisher Éditions Denoël. The novel was adapted for the screen by Saul Dibb and Matt Charman, with Dibb directing.
In 2013, the film, produced by France's TF1 Droits Audiovisuels and UK's Entertainment One, was given a budget of €15 million ($20 million). Mick Brown of The Daily Telegraph noted this was "big by European, if not American, standards". In May 2013, it was reported that Suite Française would be a co-production between France, U.K. and Belgium, with Xavier Marchand, Romain Bremond, Michael Kuhn and Andrea Cornwell producing the film along with American Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company serving as the executive producer.
Dibb focused his adaptation on book two of Némirovsky's novels, which explores the relationships between the French women and the German soldiers who occupied their village, in particular the story of Lucile Angellier. She is awaiting news of her husband, who went to war, when a German officer is billeted in her home.
in the making of the film I want to capture this strong sense of immediacy and authenticity. The action should feel that it's happening now – urgent, tense, spontaneous, made with no benefit of hindsight – like we've discovered a time capsule. And very far from a safe, stuffy period piece.
Dibb used the account of the discovery of the manuscript of the novel by Némirovsky's daughter, Denise Epstein, to book-end the film. Némirovsky's original manuscript is shown during the credits. Epstein died shortly before production began, but she read drafts of the script.
Variety's Jeff Sneider reported in October 2012 that actress Michelle Williams was in talks to star in Suite Française as the protagonist Lucile Angellier. Shortly after she joined the project, Kristin Scott Thomas was attached to appear as Lucile's "domineering" mother-in-law. In an interview with Moviefone's Erin Whitney, Scott Thomas commented that the character was similar to herself. Actor Matthias Schoenaerts joined the cast as Bruno, a German officer and Lucile's love interest in November 2012.
On 14 June 2013, Dominic Patten from Deadline Hollywood reported that actor Sam Riley had joined the cast as a French soldier called Benoit. Riley's wife Alexandra Maria Lara also joined the cast, along with fellow actresses Margot Robbie as Celine and Ruth Wilson as Madeleine. Actors Tom Schilling and Lambert Wilson will also appear in the film as Kurt Bonnet and Viscount de Montmort respectively. Harriet Walter has been cast as Viscountess de Montmort, while Eileen Atkins will appear as Denise Epstein and Cédric Maerckx as Gaston Angellier.
Principal photography commenced on 24 June 2013. The shoot lasted until late August. The cast and crew spent eight weeks shooting in Belgium and eight days in France. From 10 July, filming took place in the village of Marville in the Meuse department. In August, the cast and crew spent three-and-a-half weeks filming scenes in a house in Belgium. Dibb commented that the hot weather helped create "its own weird, uncomfortable, claustrophobic atmosphere which you hope is going to feed into the atmosphere of the scenes." Leo Barraclough from Variety reported that principal photography was completed on 2 September 2013.
Costumes and make-up
English costume designer Michael O'Connor, who previously worked with Dibb on The Duchess, designed and created the clothing for the film. O'Connor used photographs, magazines and movies of the time to make the clothing and accessories as authentic as possible. His major influences were Némirovsky's novel, which describes the clothing in detail, and Jean Renoir's 1939 film The Rules of the Game. The costumes use authentic French fabrics from Paris. The film's countryside setting led Jenny Shircore, the hair and make-up designer for the production, to invoke a sense of sobriety in place of glamor. Shircore used quite little make-up on Williams, who understood she must look quite "natural, simple, in a sense resigned."
French composer Alexandre Desplat was originally attached to compose the film's musical score. Dibb wanted Bruno's piano piece to be composed before shooting began, and he wanted it to be played during the film as "a developing theme" and then at the end in its full form. Desplat wrote Bruno's Theme, but was unable to write the final score for the entire film and was replaced by Rael Jones. Jones's score was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London. Sony Classical released the soundtrack album on 16 March 2015. It features original music composed by Jones, a piano piece composed by Desplat and songs performed by Lucienne Boyer, Josephine Baker and Rosita Serrano. Dibb explained that music plays a crucial part in the film and called the score "subtle and atmospheric."
On 16 April 2013, it was reported that The Weinstein Company had pre-bought the U.S. distribution rights for the film. On 19 May 2013, it was announced that The Weinstein Company would also handle the distribution rights in Latin America, Australia, Russia and Germany, while Entertainment One would release the picture in the U.K., Spain and Canada. The first trailer for the film was released on 24 October 2014.
Suite Française had its world premiere at the Cinema UGC Normandie in Paris on 10 March 2015. The film was originally scheduled to be released theatrically in the UK through Entertainment One on 23 January 2015, but it was postponed to 13 March 2015, and it was released on DVD on 27 July 2015. It was released in France by UGC Distribution on April 20, 2015.
Although it had been acquired by The Weinstein Company, the film did not have a theatrical release in the US. It was scheduled to premiere on Lifetime cable network on 10 October 2016, but the release was postponed to 22 May 2017.
Suite Française earned £503,928 upon its opening weekend in the United Kingdom. The film opened to 425 locations and landed at number four in the UK box office top ten. The following week the film played at a further 21 screens and earned £268,607 for a total of £1,293,408. It fell three places to seven in the box office chart. As of August 2015, Suite Française has earned over $9 million worldwide.
The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 76% of 46 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 5.94/10. The website's critical consensus states, "Suite Française takes an understated approach to its period romance, which – along with strong performances from a talented cast – pays absorbing dividends." Metacritic assigned a weighted average score of 63 out of 100 based on 8 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews." The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave the film two stars out of five and likened the central love story to "a damp haddock on a slab". He continued, "This adaptation of Irène Némirovsky's acclaimed bestseller about French folk collaborating with the Nazis is flabby, sugary – and passion-free." Emma Dibdin from Digital Spy gave the film three stars and commented, "Suite Française works far better as the story of a community in flux than it does as a brooding romance, the shifting loyalties between villagers and soldiers escalating towards a somewhat compelling third act."
Anna Smith from Empire rated the film "good" and said "Sterling performances lift the occasionally soapy storyline in this semi-successful adaptation." Variety's Guy Lodge found the film "fusty but enjoyably old-fashioned", adding "iffy scripting decisions can't thwart the romantic allure of this handsomely crafted, sincerely performed wartime weeper." Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Leslie Felperin's consensus was "[Suite Française] has sturdy production values, a tony cast and middlebrow tastefulness up the wazoo, but barely any soul, bite or genuine passion."
The "Desire" trailer for Suite Française created by eOne Films International and Create Advertising London earned a nomination for Best Foreign Romance Trailer at the 16th Golden Trailer Awards. Jones's score was nominated for the Public Choice Award at the 2015 World Soundtrack Awards.
The film's postscript reads as follows: Suite Francaise was written in secret as the Nazis occupied France. It was never completed. In 1942 its author, Irene Nemirovsky, was arrested for being Jewish and died in Auschwitz. Her handwritten manuscript lay unread in a suitcase for nearly sixty years until it was discovered by her daughter. Suite Francaise was finally published in 2004 and became a worldwide bestseller. The daughter is quoted as saying:
"It is an extraordinary feeling to have brought my mother back to life. It shows the Nazis did not truly succeed in killing her. It is not vengeance, but it is a victory." - Denise Epstein-Dauple
- "Suite Francaise". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
- "Suite Française (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 11 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
- Rosser, Michael (27 June 2013). "Suite Francaise shoot begins". Screendaily. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- Fleming, Michael (9 November 2006). "Checking into 'Suite'". Variety. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- Brown, Mick (7 March 2015). "Matthias Schoenaerts interview: 'I think cautious is boring. I want to be bad'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- "Cannes: Weinstein Company Takes U.S. Rights to 'Suite Francaise'". The Hollywood Reporter. 19 May 2013. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
- Dibb, Saul (July 2012). "Suite Française – Intentions". TF1 International. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
- Black, Claire (10 March 2015). "Saul Dibb on shooting his new film Suite Francaise". The Scotsman. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
- Sneider, Jeff (10 October 2012). "Michelle Williams in talks for 'Suite Francaise'". Variety. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- Raup, Jordan (15 October 2013). "Kristin Scott Thomas Joins Michelle Williams In WWII Drama 'Suite Francaise'". The Film Stage. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- Whitney, Erin (17 July 2013). "'Only God Forgives': Kristin Scott Thomas on Playing an Evil Mother, Swearing On-Screen". Moviefone. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- Jagernauth, Kevin (23 November 2012). "'Rust And Bone' Star Matthias Schoenaerts Joining Michelle Williams In WWII Drama 'Suite Francaise'". theplaylist.net. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
- Patten, Dominic (14 June 2013). "Sam Riley Set For 'Suite Française' With Michelle Williams". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
- Tartaglione, Nancy (27 June 2013). "Margot Robbie, Ruth Wilson, Alexandra Maria Lara Join Weinstein Co.'s 'Suite Française'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
- "Suite française – Leading cast". TF1 International. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- "TF1 DA, Entertainment One and The Weinstein Company Announce Partnership on Suite Française". Entertainment One. 20 May 2013. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- Daniels, Nia (28 May 2013). "Michelle Williams leads cast on WWII drama". KFTV.com. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- Pradayrol, François (20 July 2013). "Culture – Rain of stars at Marville for the filming of a historical film". Le Républicain Lorrain (in French). Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- Barraclough, Leo. "First Image Released of TWC Pickup 'Suite Francaise'". Variety. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
- Palladini, Federica (5 March 2015). "French Suite: the costumes and the makeup of the film". Elle Italy (in Italian). Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Lopez, Kristen (27 June 2013). "Alexandre Desplat Scoring 'Suite Francaise' Starring Michelle Williams & Matthias Schoenaert". IndieWire. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- "Rael Jones Scoring Saul Dibb's 'Suite Francaise'". Film Music Reporter. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
- "'Suite Francaise' Soundtrack Details". Film Music Reporter. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- "The Weinstein Company Booking 'Suite Francaise' With Michelle Williams & Matthias Schoenaerts". IndieWire. 16 April 2013. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
- Armitage, Hugh (24 October 2014). "Michelle Williams and Kristin Scott Thomas in Suite Française trailer". Digital Spy. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
- "SUITE FRANCAISE : World Premiere in Paris". TF1 International. 16 March 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
- "Michelle Williams attends the world premiere of 'Suite Francaise' at Cinema UGC Normandie on March 10, 2015 in Paris, France". Getty Images. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
- "Watch: Michelle Williams & Matthias Schoenaerts Take On A Forbidden Love In First Trailer For 'Suite Francaise'". The Playlist. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
- Hemrajani, Sara (20 November 2014). "'Suite Francaise' Gets New U.K. Release Date". Filmoria. Archived from the original on 6 February 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- "Suite Francaise". BBC Films. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
- "The Lost, Orphaned And Long-Delayed Projects Of Harvey Weinstein". IndieWire. 20 August 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
- "Fall Into Lifetime's October Movies". The Futon Critic. 13 September 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
- "Is 'Suite Francaise' A True Story? The Movie Has A Tragic Backstory". Bustle. 10 October 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
- "Lifetime's premieres – Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland / Menendez: Blood Brothers / Suite Française / Little Women: Atlanta: Monie Gets Married / Catastrophe". A+E Networks. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
- "Weinstein's 'Suite Francaise' Lands On Lifetime: Michelle Williams-Matthias Schoenaerts WWII Romance Gets Airdate". Deadline Hollywood. 10 May 2017. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
- "Suite Française". Lifetime. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
- "The Weinstein Company Are Dumping 'Suite Francaise' Starring Michelle Williams & Matthias Schoenaerts On Lifetime". The Playlist. 10 May 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
- Grant, Charles (17 March 2015). "Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel outruns Liam Neeson at UK box office". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
- Gant, Charles (24 March 2015). "Home sweet at UK box office while older children rush to Insurgent". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
- "Suite Française (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
- "Suite Française Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- Bradshaw, Peter (12 March 2015). "Suite Française review – Michelle Williams sleepwalks through wartime". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- Dibdin, Emma (13 March 2015). "Suite Francaise review: Michelle Williams stars in a rote war romance". Digital Spy. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- Smith, Anna. "Suite Francaise". Empire. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- Lodge, Guy (10 March 2015). "Film Review: 'Suite francaise'". Variety. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- Felperin, Leslie (10 March 2015). "'Suite Francaise': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- "The 16th Annual Golden Trailer Award Nominees". Golden Trailer Awards. Archived from the original on 13 April 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- "Public Choice voting". World Soundtrack Academy. Retrieved 4 August 2015.