The film begins very unusually for a war movie – with a slow and empty panorama of the Pacific Ocean seen through an endless wide empty beaches. It takes some time before we start to detect through the distance several tiny human figures on the horses, one of which is falling from the saddle for the reason of having been crippled due to the war. Such prelude to a war-film, emptied of action and crowds leads the viewers from the congested modernity to pre-history when primordial creatures hungry for a firm land appeared out of water to settle in the air. Many eons passed since under the sunny banners of killing and procreation, until the beginning of the 20th century brought the Great War/WWI, one of the most horrifying human made disasters. It’s, as if, the very beginning of “Life and Nothing But” suggests that this horrifying war marks the end of a big period of life on Earth culminating in mass killing and huge destruction of enormous proportions. So, the film, as if, hints, that may be, it’s time to reverse the evolution – time to return back from land to water and start all over again.

The leaders collect taxes and invest the money in wars. The armies care about the young people in military uniforms in order to effectively use them for killing the targeted enemies. And killing never goes without being killed, so, war is a giant grinder mixing – those who managed to kill, the wounded and the killed. So, the recruits have to learn the difficult task – how to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible and at the same time how to avoid getting killed. It comes to – you kill so as not to be killed. The first psychological support of successful killing is when you are moved by hate. But the second – more professional – when you kill with indifference, with pure technical perfection. When a person is trying to kill while at the same time avoids getting killed he/she is, as if, psychologically protected by the vicious emotions like self-aggrandizement and righteousness, without which war with all its inhuman cruelties would be impossible. To survive war you must feel that your country and you yourself are better than your enemies (that you deserve to live because you are better and have the moral right to kill, while your enemies doesn’t). The opposite sides usually try to completely whitewash their own guilt and project their sins into the enemies, who then are scapegoated and carry their own (and our) immoralities and cruelties. It is at this logical point that Tavernier‘s film really begins. The film shows the end of war as a sublimated and redeeming experience of grief. The main character of the film Major Dellaplane (Philippe Noiret) in charge of identifying the bodies of the French soldiers killed on the battlefield and those missing in action.

Dellaplane who feels indebted to the victims of war is detested by the army general for giving too much attention and passion to grieving and for his “fanatical” dedication to the dead and the war crippled soldiers instead of taking pride for France’s greatness, for “our country” and “those who sacrificed themselves for its glory”. Dellaplane met Irene de Curtil (Sabine Azema) who is looking for her husband missing in action. Dellaplane tries to awaken in her the understanding of what wars are about, how war covers up the cynical profiteering by the profit makers on both sides of war, making business deals with the enemies, while soldiers suffer and die on the battle fields. Dellaplane and Irene, this beyond-war couple, have quite a difficult time, but the film communicates a sense of hope, that they will be able to overcome the legacy of war inside their souls and be, in a sense, the progenitors of a new, beyond-war, generations. The film is without reservation recommended for every American living in the 21st century and can be considered a film that is dedicated to young people, their parents and their children.

Tavernier and Philippe Noiret in between takes on the set

The first encounter between Irene de Curtil, hoping to find her husband missing in action, and Major Dellaplane, the officer in charge of finding and identifying those missing in action

Irene as she was before meeting the Major – a traditional beautiful woman who used to be happy and suffered without much of a grasp on either the first or the second and their socio-political contexts.

The first – awkward dance between Irene and Dellaplane at a party celebrating truce

Propaganda ritual that is to transform the incredible burden weighing on the soldiers’ hearts and minds regarding their dead friends and comrades – into megalomaniacal pride of having won the war (of being stronger and greater than the enemy).

The French army with the hope that the relatives and the beloveds of the soldiers “missing in action” will be able to identify and recognize the personal belongings of their loved ones who were killed or not found created expositions displaying the items at various geographical sights. To the right we see Irene de Curtil (Sabine Azema).

Two women dedicated everything in search of their loved ones missing in action share their feelings where grief and hope desperately embrace each other.

Posted on April/23/’17 –

Bertrand Tavernier’s “Life And Nothing But/La vie at rien d’autre” (1989) – Bertrand Tavernier’s “Life and Nothing But/La vie at rien d’autre” (1989) – WWI As the Case of Victimizing the Army’s Low Ranks by the Self-aggrandized Power-seekers and Profiteers Within their Own Countries