An oddly romantic WWII drama set amid the French countryside, with a darkly brooding lover and a compromised heroine, A SOLDIER'S TALE explores the uncomfortable kinship between war and rape. Sergeant Saul Scourby (Gabriel Byrne) is adept at knifing enemy sentries and tells a flustered young recruit whom he has saved, Charlie (Paul Wyett), that feelings...read more
An oddly romantic WWII drama set amid the French countryside, with a darkly brooding lover and a compromised heroine, A SOLDIER'S TALE explores the uncomfortable kinship between war and rape.
Sergeant Saul Scourby (Gabriel Byrne) is adept at knifing enemy sentries and tells a flustered young recruit whom he has saved, Charlie (Paul Wyett), that feelings have no place in war; it is simply a job to get done. A few scenes later, when he spots Isabella (Marianne Basler), Scourby's intended
sexual escapade is complicated by a trio of Resistance members who've arrived to take her to trial for treason. Cradling his sten-gun, the sergeant sends them packing and resolves to spend the weekend protecting her from the three, who retreat to the edge of her property.
After a joyless night of sex, Scourby learns that "Belle" had taken a German lover, a pilot later lost in the skies over England. In flashback, we see the dismay her liaison caused her widower father and the anger of her nosier neighbors. With the airman's presumed death, she soon took up with a
young Frenchman whose Resistance activities precluded an affair with a Frenchwoman known to have had a Luftwaffe lover. As the weekend draws to a close, Scourby learns that she later had a relationship with a far less attractive German, a high-ranking officer in the SS security service, or SD.
The ambiguity surrounding Belle's life with the SD leader (it remains unclear whether he beat information out of her or was simply jealous of her former French lover) is mirrored by her complex attitude to her savior, the taciturn Scourby. Though he does try to rape her, later he's seen fixing
things around the house in the manner of a middle-aged husband. He does make a misguided effort to find sanctuary for her at the local church, where the priest spouts Resistance platitudes yet is unwilling to make use of a young GI (Judge Reinhold) who comes by with gifts. He even muses about
taking her away with him to Australia or New Zealand when the war is over. On her part, it is unclear whether Belle really is beginning to like Scourby; he is not overly charming or amusing or very educated, just a toughened "Tommy." Still, she knows he is the only thing standing between her and a
Resistance firing squad, and had presumably thought little of becoming the consort the most sinister kind of German.
When Scourby is finally warned by his crass young lieutenant that he had better show up at their campsite or be considered AWOL, and that no help can be expected with the local Resistance, the sergeant must make a decision fast. He does, and one that combines his military skills and darker
An interesting but slight character study, A SOLDIER'S TALE highlights the corrupt morality of wartime. Scourby thinks nothing of taking advantage of a lone woman; she has been exceedingly foolish in her choice of lovers; and the Resistance members cannot bother to think through the evidence that
points to her possible innocence. (Profanity, nudity, adult situations.)
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