I've been binge watching the second season of A French Village on MHz Choice this holiday.
This is the first series I've really watched on MHz's new online subscriber streaming service (with English subtitles). I watched the first season of A French Village when MHz Networks wast still broadcasting international TV series on cable. Still too early to know how I'm going to like the move from cable to streaming. All I know is I'm now going to be paying a monthly fee and I still have MHz series in reruns on my TV. Right now it still comes with one of my cable bundles, together with the other international news channels the MHz network broadcasts, including France 24.
There have been 6 seasons of this series that started in 2009, with a 7th airing in 2016. Right now you can watch the first two seasons on MHz Choice, plus the first two episodes of Season 3. The rest of the season's episodes will be posted once a week on Tuesdays (I think) until January 26.
The series follows the lives, losses, and loves of residents of the fictional village of Villeneuve after occupation by German forces in 1940's Vichy France. During the time of the first three series, France has been defeated by Nazi Germany, and the Vichy regime, led by Marshal Petain, is now the government of this new France. The Germans occupy the northern part of the country. Villeneuve is an occupied village. During series 1-3, 1940-1942, most of the villagers believe the Germans have pretty much won the war, and they are in a temporary state of "collaboration" between France and Nazi Germany.
The series follows several families, including the children, and how each individual is affected and reacts to this sudden and violent occupation. Family members are divided and on different sides of the political struggle. Some are collaborators, some are active in the resistance, some try to carry on in quiet desperation. Some benefit quite nicely from the war and collaboration with the Germans. Some suffer the loss of liberty, torture, and death.
There are many characters, some major some minor, but we get to know all of them and the effect the war has on their lives. One thing I truly like about the series is that we get to know intimately characters from all sides, even the occupying Germans. Even under these circumstances, life goes on, people fall in and out of love, people get sick and need attention, children go to school, chores must be done...
What would we all do under these circumstances? Would we risk our lives and join the resistance, or convince ourselves we're doing good by collaborating with the occupiers? I don't think we truly know what we would do.
Too many characters in this series to talk about in this short "review." But I think one of my favorite families, the Larcher's, are a good example of what the series does so well.
Daniel Larcher (Robin Renucci) is the respected middle-aged village doctor when the German's occupy the village. He's soon enlisted to be the town's Vichy major (and so also German collaborator). He takes the job in the belief he can do good this way. But is he really doing good. He and his volatile wife, Hortense (Audrey Fleurot), who have no children, find themselves with a newborn baby they "adopt" in the confusion of the early days of the occupation. Daniel has a younger brother, Marcel (Fabrizio Rongione), who is a Communist and joins the anti-Nazi resistance. But Marcel also works, and is a loyal manager, in the lumber company of German collaborator, Schwartz (Thierry Godard). He has a darling 10 year old son, Gustave (Maxim Driesen), who is often torn between his uncle and his father.
I find I like both Daniel and Marcel, and feel for the consequences of the decisions they make. Decisions that affect the life and death of others.
Well, have to get back to binge watching. I have two episodes of S3 to watch tonight still.
I would recommend A French Village wherever you can find it to watch.
There are also a series of interesting and informative interviews with those that lived through the war, many were children then, and also scholars with some historical background to the events we see in the series.
I would also recommend MHz Choice. Yes, something more to pay for, but some of these programs you can't find on Amazon or Netflix, and they are good to great international series from non-English speaking Europe. (And a few UK/NZ/AUS series also.) Now everyone in the US at least can watch, if you subscribe.
All series and extras with English subtitles.