“Uranus” researches how the inhumane conditions of life make the human soul crumble, deform and deteriorate. The film returns us to the France at a time of the ending of WWII but draws analogies with today’s life in Europe and US while depicting how intensification of economic fight and socio-political hate have a devastating influence on the morality of the population, be it during war or the so called peacetime. Berri makes us observe how once the war ends it is continuing, more, it psychologically intensifies and strategically multiplies. “Uranus” fully resonates with the experiences of Americans today who already for years live through multiple wars of various kind– wars of killing soldiers and murdering civilians, and wars economic, political and cultural (which are based on cutthroat competition and desperate invention of new ways of making quick money).

Berri presents the types of psychological degradation when people who face death, pauperization and uncertainty regress to hate and start to betray and fight one another in a more and more unrestricted fashion. Berri provides a typology of the members of French Communist party (among them are those who use their ideology to justify their righteous desire to revenge those who “collaborated” and those who under Nazis just wanted to live, as they want under Communists, after war is over. Berri also offers classification of individuals with right wing ideologies who try to hang on to their power over the population, and, on the other hand, of the intelligent and the educated people trying to neutralize their inhumane impulses and maintain human decency. Among the various types of the French who “survived” Nazism and after war are trying to survive “communist rule”, Berri with sarcastic monumentality represents the multibillionaire Monglat who is as successfully buying favors of Communists as he just recently did with the Germans and French Nazis.

The film elaborately criticizes the both, collaborationists and communists: Berri sees the same moral and psychological degradation in both mutually antagonistic camps of French involved into a narcissistic fight for the unconditional victory of their side.

The performances in the film are of an exceptional emotional power and diagnostic articulateness in describing the human characters trapped in impossible situations. The scene of the murder of Leopold-the pub owner (Gerard Depardieu) personifying the very frustrated vitality of the human beings, by the local police (at the behest of the “multibillionaire” Monglat) is one of the best acted scenes in the history of intellectual cinema.

The shocking beginning of the film, when we see man and woman getting up right after having an intercourse in the bushes on the outskirts of the little city, is realistic introduction to the new – after WW2 epoch when revengeful hunting after previous sinners will just repeat the orgy of mutual indignation during the war.

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Claude Berri is trying to describe to Philippe Noiret (the school teacher, Watrin) the psychological context of becoming a dead planet’s cosmic griever and Earth’s worshipper “in spite of everything”.

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Now, after the war is over, Leopold again is afraid, under the French communists, like he always was under German occupation and Marshal Petain’s collaborationist Vichy government.

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Because false information given to the police by an anonymous informer who was just acting out personal animosity, Leopold, the victim quickly finds himself locked up behind bars.

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Leopold got a lawyer and is temporarily released, but chronic insecurity made his mental condition quickly deteriorate. He became too desperate to keep himself focused and balanced. He is looking for psychotic consolations.

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Watrin here is trying to psychologically worm Leopold up by sharing with him his own Uranus-method of self-pacification.

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It is Leopold’s lawyer who is himself quite shaken up and frozen with fears.

Posted an essay on Jan 26, 2012   Claude Berri’s (1934 – 2009) “Uranus” (1990) – Militant Political Believers, Humanistic Cynics, Petty Philistines, and Money Warriors by Acting-Out Politics