Battle of the Brave (2004)
Director: Jean Beaudin.
Cast: Noémie Godin-Vigneau (Marie-Loup Carignan), David La Haye (François le Gardeur), Juliette Gosselin (France Carignan B 10 ans/Young France Carignan), Sébastien Huberdeau (Xavier Maillard), Gérard Depardieu (Le curé Thomas Blondeau), Bianca Gervais (Acoona), IrPne Jacob (Angélique de Roquebrune), Pierre Lebeau (Joseph Carignan), Vincent Perez (Intendant Le Bigot), Isabel Richer (France Carignan B 30 ans/Older France Carignan), Johanne-Marie Tremblay (Madeleine Carignan), Tim Roth (William Pitt), Jason Isaacs (Général James Wolfe), Colm Meaney (Benjamin Franklin), Billy Merasty (Owashak).
love story set in period 1758-1761, from the collapse of New France to the British take-over
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
France, the daughter of Marie Loup Carignan, comes to visit the dying priest Thomas Blondeau. The priest gives her a note and tells her: "I have read it a thousand times." He also confesses that "I was to blame."
Flashback. 20 years earlier.
The time of the fur trappers, 1759. New France is ten times bigger than her mother country France. The talk of the day is that France is about to sell New France for some islands in the sun. France says: "Quebec fell to the English. That was our fate and this is our story."
France Carignan was just a little girl then. She has fairly recently lost her father and now she lives with her mother, the widow Marie-Loup Carignan. Marie-Loup makes money selling various herbs and natural potions. (For this some people call her a witch.) A young Indian woman runs away from some soldiers who are chasing her. The soldiers catch up with her and grab her. A soldier treats the young woman very harshly and Marie-Loup intervenes. When she can do nothing a man named François intervenes. Marie-Loup tells the soldier that the young girl is her daughter Acoona. The soldiers leave.
In town the common people warn others about Intendant Le Bigot. The word is not to trust him. He lets his men rape the women. Angélique de Roquebrune, the mistress of Bigot, buys some herbs from Marie-Loup. She has an ulterior motive. Bigot told her he wanted Marie-Loup for sexual purposes and asked Angélique to make it happen. François formally meets France then her mother Marie-Loup. He seems to take a fancy to the mother.
The local priest is Thomas Blondeau, who owns a black slave girl from the West Indies. The slave girl is a friend to Marie-Loup.
François's father and Bigot worked together to chase people off their lands and François feels a little guilty about this and about the wealth he enjoys. François plays cards with Bigot. The talk turns to politics. François says that France will never abandon New France.
Royal Naval Command, England. Mr. Pitt and Benjamin Franklin talk about the English taking over the land of the French Canadians.
Marie-Loup visits Bigot's mistress. Angélique invites her to come to the Intendant's ball. She gives her a nice dress and then a fancy ball gown. François then talks with the mistress, who likes him very much. Angélique kisses him. François leaves and catches up with Marie-Loup. They talk a bit and he tries to get her to trust him. She later visits her mother and father. Her father is a real grouch. He hates Indians and blacks. Marie-Loup scolds him for this.
François walks with Marie-Loup and they hold hands. Later François has a dispute with the too strict Sgt. Lavigeur.
Father Blondeau knows Monsieur le Gouverneur very well and he recommends François to him as a trustworthy aide.
The English Major General Wolfe and his army invades Canada. He gains control of the upper St. Lawrence River and now boasts that he will take Quebec and Montreal. The Gouverneur tells François to go to Versailles to talk with the king's mistress Madame Pompadour, who is supposed to be very powerful in French politics. He is first to visit the great French philosopher Voltaire in Geneva and then visit Madame Pompadour. The Gouverneur says that Voltaire will listen to him if he pleads the case of French Canada.
Marie-Loup attends the ball. Bigot's mistress tries to prepare Marie-Loup for Bigot, but Marie-Loup is shocked and angry. She says: "How naive I was." The mistress tells her that Bigot can be of great help to her, but that he also can be very cruel. François intervenes on behalf of Marie-Loup. He distracts the guards and Marie-Loup is able to slip out and away from Bigot and his friends. Marie-Loup is so relieved. She kisses François and more.
François has a friend named Xavier Maillard who he has known from when they were boys. But now Xavier works for Bigot. Bigot orders Xavier to seize François and bring him in for interrogation. But Bigot's mistress warns François. She tells him that they have killed his friend Jean-Baptiste. And she breaks the bad news to him that Bigot's men have stolen his documents. She says that now "You're nobody -- a dead man."
François has to leave hurriedly for Geneva. He gives a note to an Indian friend who delivers the note to Acoona who in turn gives it to France who gives it to Marie-Loup. The problem is that Marie-Loup cannot read. She trusts the priest and asks him to read the note to her. Unbeknownst to Marie-Loup, the priest is in love with her and he certainly does not want Marie-Loup to leave with François. So he makes up his own message. He tells Marie-Loup that it is a farewell letter. François has to leave because there is a price on his head and he tells her that she must forget him. This devastates Marie-Loup who says: "How can I live without him?"
François waits for the arrival of Marie-Loup and her daughter. But it is the priest who shows up instead. He tells François that Marie-Loup received his note and that she has decided that she has to stay in Canada with her daughter. Now François is distraught. The soldiers arrive. Xavier rides down to speak with François. He tells him that he is giving him a second chance and lets him proceed on to Europe.
The English big-shots have a dinner at which they drink a toast to their glorious army. "And God bless our general." The English fleet is very huge.
Voltaire's Mansion, Switzerland. Voltaire tells François that Quebec is not worth the bones of a single French grenadier. He suggests that he visit Rousseau to tell him his tales from Canada of the noble savages there. But François has to get to Versailles as quickly as possible.
The English bombard the city of Quebec. A shell buries Marie-Loup, France and Acoona under many timbers. Marie-Loup and France are o.k., but Acoona dies. The English defeat Quebec.
François gets absolutely nowhere with Madame Pompadour. Meanwhile, the English take over Canada. Nouvelle-France (New France) is no more.
Xavier likes to have sex with a black slave. But now since François is gone, he starts to make a move on Marie-Loup. France warns her mother: "He's not for us." But Marie-Loup believes that François is dead. Otherwise they would have heard from him.
Bigot and his hench-men are thrown into the Bastille. Xavier blackmails Marie-Loup's father, who is absolutely opposed to Xavier marrying his daughter, by threatening to reveal his name on some incriminating documents. The end result is that Marie-Loup marries Xavier. She tells Xavier: "If you want me, you'll have to make me yours first." She starts to have sex with him, but dreams of François. She realizes that she cannot have sex with Xavier and so she puts an end to the love-making. She cries and tells her husband that she just cannot do it. This makes Xavier very upset with his new wife.
An Indian friend arrives to tell Marie-Loup that she is needed in his village. She rides on the back of his horse and he takes her not to his village, but to see François, who has returned from France. She is shocked to see him. When they come together, she steps back from him, falls to her knees and cries. Then they embrace.
Later Marie-Loup sees her husband who is very drunk. She tells him that they must separate: "I never loved you. We'll see the priest." This infuriates Xavier and he beats Marie-Loup. She runs off. She goes to see the priest. She screams at him that he lied blatantly to her. For his sin he will help her get a separation. But the evil priest says that he does not have the right to intervene on her behalf. Marie-Loup leaves absolutely disgusted with the priest.
Marie-Loup tells her daughter a secret; François has returned. There's a problem, however. The black female slave that has sex with Xavier overhears them and she goes to tell Xavier. Marie-Loup and France are down by the river waiting for François to arrive. They are going away together. But as François races on horseback to the meeting place, his horse is tripped by a rope across the road and horse and rider take a tumble. François is then attacked by a man. François is able to kill the man, only then to be attacked by Xavier. Xavier is knocked down and out, but as François tries to retrieve his horse, he steps in a bear trap. Xavier gets up and starts to hit François with a large tree limb.
The scene quickly shifts ahead in time. Xavier is back at his farm. The drunken husband tells Marie-Loup that he will never see her lover again. France pushes Xavier down onto the ground.
Xavier has been found dead in his stables. The soldiers arrive. Marie-Loup and her father are questioned about the death. The towns people blame Marie-Loup for her husband's death and start to harass her and her girl. To protect France, Marie-Loup sends for her aunt, a nun. The aunt arrives and takes France with her to the convent.
Marie-Loup and her father are arrested for the murder of Xavier. Now we find out that François has been saved and nursed back to health by the Indians. He is weak, but he is strong enough to travel. He heads back to Marie-Loup.
Marie-Loup is now on trial. The black maid who would have sex with Xavier gives testimony against Marie-Loup. The judges, however, ask her about her relationship with Xavier. The charge is that they would have sex together. The slave changes the subject by saying that Marie-Loup is a witch and a practitioner of the black arts. Marie-Loup stares at her and the slave believes that she is putting a curse on her. She is so afraid that she faints.
François goes to see Bigot's one-time mistress. He asks her for her help. She says she will talk to Gov. Murray. François then speaks with the new Intendant and tells him that he killed Xavier. For this François is imprisoned. Apparently the mistress could not get help from the governor for Marie-Loup is found guilty of the murder of Xavier. For this she is sentenced to be placed in an iron cage in which she will be hanged.
The former mistress is, however, able to get François out of prison and permission to see Marie-Loup. He visits her in her jail cell.
The prison guards cut Marie-Loup's hair short and place her inside a body-shaped iron cage. In this cage she is driven through the streets of town where the residents curse her. Poor France watches this from a window. The priest asks her to confess, but she tells him: "I can't. I can't." She hangs.
Back to the present.
France is visiting with the dying Father Blondeau. The priest acknowledges that he was to blame for her mother's death. But France has something to confess herself. She reveals that Xavier tried to abuse her sexually and that she was able to grab a hatchet and kill her drunken step-father who had fallen. Marie-Loup was innocent. The priest thanks her for telling him and then dies.
France leaves. She walks over to her "father" François to talk with him.
I loved the first half of the movie and hated the second half. The first half was nicely anchored in the then current events. The second half was just about the long-drawn out trial of Marie-Loup for a crime she did not commit. The acting was good. Depardeau was great as the evil priest. My wife and I really hated the character he portrayed.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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