“The Americans are coming”
The sheer number of different stories that have been told out of the atrocities committed during World War II never ceases to amaze me. It shouldn’t—such a large-scale assault on humanity is nothing if not complex. When you think about breadth of the countries, cultures, and languages involved, the tally of uniquely personal tales brought home in its aftermath is infinite. While Hollywood focuses its attention on epics of artillery or repurposed accounts told through the eyes of comic book superheroes, though, such a generic assumption of audience interest doesn’t leave the independent scene empty-handed. There are still intimate human moments worth pursuing like love in the midst of death, hope in the chaos of destruction, and ultimately our survival of both life and freedom.
This is the realm Marion Kerr sought for her script Une Libération. A sixteen-minute short set in the shadowed alleyways of Paris on the cusp of a long-awaited global breathe of relief, she shows the tragedy of war through a relationship that evolved knowing nothing else. When her character Juliet, an American resistance fighter, speaks the words “Everything has changed” to her French compatriot and fellow covert emissary in the streets, it carries the weight of unimaginable sacrifice and sorrow. It’s unsurprising since she brings names of the deceased while he (Ross Marquand‘s Jean) holds the promise of their salvation. To know the end is nigh allows him to revisit feelings pushed aside for years. To her, only now discovering the news, hope is still a dangerous prospect to wield.
So it’s with heavy heart upon their separating that a gunshot cracks. He was wearing the resistance’s Croix de Lorraine on his arm so assuming the worst at the sound of German comes natural. And with the promise of love in the air, it’s also easy to let the wind get knocked from your lungs. Director Brian James Crewe pounces on this emotionality by trapping us visually and aurally in the moment, tilting the frame of Kerr’s approach to learn Jean’s fate in the narrow blackness of a stone passage and enveloping us in the unknown words of a foreign language whose meaning is rendered unimportant when juxtaposed against her devastation. We become as lost as she, her personal feelings long kept dormant released at the moment they’d hurt the worst.
I know it seems like a total downer, but like WWII it’s more complicated than surface summary can reveal. With a fatal fight still to arrive sparing none of the physicality necessary to accept lives are on the line, the frontline has come to Juliet whether she was ready for it or not. Kerr and Crewe are afforded every opportunity to give in to the idyllic bow-tied conclusion Hollywood pounces on to pull without fail, but they know as we do such a move screams cop-out. I’m not saying this means their Allies fall to their Axis counterparts like so many pure-hearted souls in 1940’s Paris nor that they don’t. Just know that happy endings forever come at a price—victory over the Nazis is a singular example. True love proves no exception.