Lives and Life Sacrificed To the Myth Of A Glorious War Which Covers Up The Wartime Profits Of The Generals And Entrepreneurs

War started as a war of religion, but became a war for supremacy and gain… In war, terrible things happen which have nothing to do with victory. Killing civilians, prisoners and the wounded does not contribute to victory. Sparing their lives is good for all sides. If I spare the lives of captured enemy soldiers and the enemy spares the lives of my own soldiers who are captured, everybody wins… When two states have a quarrel, they should go to an international court and accept its judgment peacefully… The only completely moral army is the army that does not fight.
Uri Avnery, March 17, 2017

In “Life and Nothing But” Tavernier examines the emotional hurdles that separate history from truth…
Philip French

Real soldier is the one who doesn’t kill – who is on the side of the killed. Real courage is to be in war without touching a weapon, to meet war face to face, not trigger-to-trigger, to know war without protecting oneself from it, to feel war’s cowardly and for this reason – belligerent heart. Real understanding of war is to carry in your heart cosmic life as opposite of war’s cosmic destruction of life

Poster of Tavernier’s film – major Dellaplane’s gaze at a world at war


Philippe Noiret in the role of the hero of “Life And Nothing But” – a military man without killing

Bertrand Tavernier on the set of “Life and Nothing but/La vie at rien d’autre”


Tavernier is discussing with Philippe Noiret the psychological origins of Dellaplane’s position towards the war


Pay attention to the facial expression of the soldier in the foreground of the shot – he is wounded, but what is killed is his soul, and it will be difficult to resurrect it. It’s much easier to provide a maimed soldier with artificial limbs, than to heal his soul. Neither armies, nor the so called peaceful life in modern societies occupied with competition and entertainment and preparation for new wars, are equipped to do it.

Everyday life of war, when it’s not “lubricated” by stimulating hate and exciting killings


Dellaplane is a senior officer whose obligations don’t include killing or organizing killings of the enemies – unconsciously the most pleasurable part of jingoistic war-making.


Dellaplane feels indebted to the victims of war – he feels that he must help to the killed soldiers and their dear ones as much as he can.


The major whose main duties are to be in charge of identification of the corpses of French soldiers, considers himself a worker of war, not a killer in war.

Major Dellaplane and Irene de Curtil, two heroic followers of symmetrical moral ideals


Irene is trying to find her husband who is missing in action as hundreds of thousands of young people, but for her the truth about war(s) will remain for quite some time beyond her knowledge and scope of her emotional life.


Dellaplane is trying to get Irene understand that today’s wars are not about “defending our country” against an enemy (as official propaganda on both sides has it and suggests it to the young servicemen), but about cynical profiteers on both sides making a mutually profitable business deals while low rank servicemen of countries at war are killing each other.

Major Dellaplane and the French top militarizes and some segments of political -establishment


The General and the Minister are planning solemn rituals meant to press in the souls of the suffering soldiers the buttons of patriotic/flagriotic fervor


The general detests Dellaplane (Philippe Noiret) for having “essential”, not “official” concept of war.


The “sacred ritual” of preparation for an even more sacred propagandistic whole country event glorifying war and heroic deaths.

Dellaplane and Irene as an alternative – beyond-wars amorous couple, not touched by jingoistic bravado and pop-megalomania and economy of greed of pro-war societies


What Dellaplane is as a man, Irene (Sabine Azema) is as a woman – both are guardians of humane values, carriers of courage to stand against making profit at the expense of life, and people with the ability to love in the kingdom of hate, greed and destruction.

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When we are intent to watch a war movie, we are not prepared for anything like Tavernier’s film. We are used to propaganda and commercial movies for mass consumption, which imply that war means clashing of armies, killing enemies and, unfortunately, also sometimes being killed and wounded – for the sake of our country (war is war and those who hate us are always somewhere in the world sitting behind the rocks and trees with machineguns). We‘re used to watching on the screen, under the drum rhythms of our own heartbeats, the acts of heroism on the part of our soldiers and caricaturized representation of our enemies. And we become more righteous in our always justified hate and more self-aggrandized in our always justified belligerence. We become braggarts of our military power and loud proclaimers of our best-ness in comparison with our “miserable and contemptible enemies”.

“Life And Nothing But”, on the other hand, withdraws from showing battles, fights, resourceful killings and heroic self-sacrifices. Here we don’t see faces mobilized for the battle, that share with the viewers their solemn awareness of the possibility of being killed and their courageous readiness for the final act of “glorious” self-sacrifice for the sake of “our country, the best in the world”. But Tavernier doesn’t want the viewers’ easy and pleasant identification with the heroes – he doesn’t want us to become more jingoistically belligerent and wallow in the consciousness of “our” power amidst destruction. He wants us to concentrate on an unbearably destructive consequences of war and be willing to question the adequacy of war as a means to resolve disagreements between sides. Tavernier shows war not in its preparation nor in the phase of its realization – its acting out, but through its destructive results, its dead end. He shows “our side” suffering the terrifying consequences of the war which “we won and are happy about our victory”. The director concentrates on the dark side of the good and lucky resolution of one of the most destructive wars in the history of humankind. French won, but 350 000 of French soldiers are missing in action. So, we, the viewers concentrate on the suffering connected with “our soldiers” being killed and missing in action – not even identified as human beings. In other words, we see war in the film as grief about the fallen ones, as sublimated and redeeming experience.

War as a grief, as a sacred experience is personified by the systematic efforts and hard work of the main character in the film, major Dellaplane (in Philippe Noiret’s incredible, without the usual assortment of pop-emotions, performance). He is the hero of the war not as a destruction and self-aggrandizement (masked by jingoism and feeling of “our superior power”), but as grief and compassion – for dead and their families which are continuing to hold on to the belief that their loved ones in uniform are still, by some miracle, alive. Delaplane’s job is to identify the corpses of French soldiers missing in action. He is, according to the film, an example of a completely moral soldier, whose duty is not to kill as many on the enemy side as possible – to be a better killer than the enemy, but to attend the fallen lives of our soldiers by accumulating exact knowledge of their lives during the war and their deaths and by this to pay immortal tribute to the killed.

Major Dellaplane is painfully dedicated to his work of saving the dead soldiers from anonymity – of immortalizing their destiny by finding their corpses and delivering “them” to their relatives. He is doing this so holistically, that his sincerity contradicts the position of French army’s leadership and the politicians who wanted to “summarize” all “unknown” soldiers into one generic corpse which they plan to symbolically immortalize through all country solemn military funeral ceremony – a pompous burial under the Arc de Triompfe.

Major Dellaplane as he is represented by Philippe Noiret is an ultimate personification of completely moral soldier. His ascetic dedication to the task of saving the killed servicemen in honorable immortality of their exact names makes him emotionally isolated and alone, but the exceptional person especially needs and deserves the exceptional personal relationships.

His acquaintance with the distraught woman who like many women in this period was trying to find her disappeared husband, alive or dead, among the missing in action, wasn’t an easy relationship. Irene de Curtil (Sabine Azema, after playing extraordinary female characters in number of Alain Resnais’ films like “Love Unto Death” – L’Amour a Mort, 1984), is the daughter-in-law of an influential French politician who, according to Dellaplane, was involved in secret financial dealings with a German businessmen while his son was in the frontlines during the war. Dellaplane’s information about Irene’s Father-in-law was shocking but reliable and it didn’t create incompatibility between them. Conversely, it opened Irene’s eyes. The incredible power of Irene Curtil’s character allowed her to make the difficult first step to breach the alienation between two exceptional people, produced by the hell of war times and its inhumane effects on the human souls recoiling in horror and despair amidst the ritualistic cheer of victory and forgetfulness. Relationship between these two unusual human beings is not a sentimental one nor symbiotic (offering to cure two people with a warm bodily embrace in the nest-hole of personal happiness in a devastated and devastating world). It will take some time before they will allow themselves deserved happiness – they both know too much of war and people who plunge into psychological regression in order to survive hard times and are able to fall in love easily and blissfully. It’s in the hands of Irene and Dellaplane to overcome the war.

Posted on June/4/’17 –   “Life and Nothing But/La vie at rien d’autre” (1989) by Bertrand Tavernier by Acting-Out Politics