Lives and Life Sacrificed to the Myth of Glorious War Which Covers Up the Wartime Profits Made by the Generals and Businessmen/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 while in war not to touch a weapon, to meet war face to face, not trigger-to-trigger, to know war without protecting oneself from it, to feel war is cowardly and for this reason – belligerent heart. Real understanding of war is to carry the cosmic life in your heart the opposite of war as 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 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 life during peaceful times 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 doesn’t include killing or organizing killing 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 do all he can for the dead soldiers killed on the battlefield and their loved ones.

The major whose main duties are to be in charge of identifying the corpses of French soldiers, considers himself a worker, 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 for quite some time remain beyond her understanding and scope of emotional life.

Dellaplane is trying to get Irene to 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 their gullible young servicemen), but about cynical profiteers on both sides equally making a handsome profitable business deals while the low rank servicemen of countries at war with one another are killing each other.

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

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

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

“Sacred rituals” are to prepare the whole country for even more sacred propaganda 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) as a woman – both are guardians of humane values, carriers of courage to stand against making profit at the expense of human beings, life, and people with the ability to love in the kingdom of hate, greed and destruction.


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 beat of our heartbeats, heroic acts on part of our soldiers and caricaturish representation of our enemies. And we become more righteous in our justified hate and more self-aggrandized in our 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/missing 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