I ventured to Queens on the N Train today to catch a screening of Cafard. This animated film depicts the Great War as experienced by a group of Belgian friends and family. The protagonist is Jean Mordant, who we see winning the 1914 world wrestling championship in Buenos Aires at the same moment his fifteen year old daughter home in Ostend is raped by a group of German soldiers at a checkpoint. Eager for revenge Mordant enlists in the Belgian ACM, or armoured car division. As the war grinds on his service takes him literally around the world through various parts of Russia, Mongolia, China, San Fransisco and New York. The war’s reach is sometimes lost on us today, probably because we think of globalization as a twenty-first century phenomenon.
The film logs in at just over ninety minutes. I found the film worthwhile but sometimes a little strained and overdone. Still, I suppose it is okay to be a little overwrought when depicting something as tragic as the Great War. In an animated feature there is also more leeway to exaggerate for effect. One thing I liked about the film is that it captured the world wide reach of the conflict, especially in its handling of the Russian Revolution and its consequences. The film does a good job of showing how easy it is for individuals to get tangled in events bigger than themselves, and how little control a person has in that situation. It is a very unsettling notion. Cafard is not for the faint of heart but if one is looking for a contemporary film that depicts the First World War through both a narrow and wide lens this is a good one to check out. With all its tragedy, it even ends on a hopeful note.