“A Bag of Marbles” (“Un Sac de Billes”)
Christian Duguay’s “A Bag of Marbles” looks at a difficult period in modern French history. Two young brothers are forced to fend for themselves when the German occupation of France and subsequent persecution of Jews puts their lives in danger. Maurice (Batyste Fleurial) and Joseph (Dorian Le Clech) leave their parents Roman (Patrick Bruel) and Anna ( Elza Zylberstein) behind in Vichy France and travel to Nice in the free-zone to join their older siblings Henri (César Domboy) and Albert (Ilian Bergala). The family is soon reunited, but once again the German occupation separates Maurice and Joseph from their parents and brothers. The two face possible capture and deportation before the family can come back together.
Director Christian Duguay emphasizes the sense of loss on both sides as the children flee the Nazi occupation. The film is a remake of the same title and it is a beautiful film that is based on a true story.
Maurice and Joseph are devoted to themselves and show an incredible amount of malice, courage and ingenuity to escape the enemy invasion and try to get reunited their families again. The two brothers who are now in their 80’s are still Paris with their families.
One of the most important messages comes early on when a Jewish barber, the father of the family, stands up to a German soldier and speaks out while he is still able to do so. Jo is the youngest son of that barber. Over the last years of the war, Jo’s family (including his three older brothers) are repeatedly separated and reunited as they try to evade Nazi capture. With his smarts, his sometimes heartbreaking emotional bravery and a bit of plain luck, Jo survives under numerous assumed identities across the south of France, sometimes with his family and sometimes on his own. It’s a coming of age amidst the most harrowing crucible imaginable.
Even though we know Germany will be defeated and France regains her freedom, we are as overcome with joy as the characters are when it finally happens. Duguay uses his most disturbing footage to depict how the French treated collaborators after the war ended.