Trailer for the series "The Warriors" (Netflix)
Series or movies whose plot takes place in times of war, especially if it focuses on the fighting forces and the intrigues of espionage and military strategy, usually tend to put mainly male characters at the center.
Traditionally, military affairs involve whole systems that are fundamentally masculine, and this is especially true when it comes to war stories set in past eras.
But the traumatic story of one nation or another is not reserved only for the fighting men, for those who sacrificed themselves and for the generals who fought for the peace of the citizens.
In times of war, the traditional roles of men and women tend to be undermined, because they are forced to fill the void when the majority of the male population enlists to fight, and many of them do not return, or return wounded in body and soul.
It's always interesting to see a work, whether cinematic or televised, that specifically emphasizes all the ways in which female society faces these critical times.
The French "Women at War" takes place in 1914, and describes the first and critical weeks of the First World War, with the German invasion of France.
She chooses to do it through the eyes of four women, who each have a different role and their own agendas, but their fates are mixed as they try to survive the dangerous situation they have found themselves in.
The Netflix mini-series became a surprise hit around the world, including here in Israel.
Perhaps it is because she does not try to tell a broad story, with bloody battlefields and the fate of the nation, but concentrates on the events that happen in the small village of Saint-Paulin.
The village is very close to the front, and therefore most of its inhabitants are evacuated and only the military personnel stationed nearby remain there, people who benefit from the situation such as the local brothel which is suddenly frequented by a lot of young soldiers, and the Saint-Pauline monastery where a military hospital was hastily established and to which the wounded flow day and night.
The series does not save viewers from the sight of desperately wounded, the cruelty of the enemy against the civilian population and on the battlefield, but it does not have the budget for spectacular and cinematic scenes of killing and carnage as we are used to seeing in war movies.
It's not her thing either.
The strength of the series is precisely in the human stories, in the melodramatic moments and the emotional struggles of the characters.
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"The Warriors" (Photo: Netflix)
The abbess Agnes (Julie de Bona) tries to be strong for all the nuns in her charge, and her faith is put to the test when she meets a man who fought in the forest.
She gives shelter to Suzanne (the amazing Camille Lou), an experienced nurse who stumbled upon the scene while trying to escape to Switzerland, and has many secrets and a cruel man chasing her.
Susan is forced to make a difficult choice between her freedom and her sense of responsibility as a nurse, when she sees how much she is needed at the hospital.
Carolyn (Sofia Esaydi) is an upper-class woman whose engineer husband goes to help the war effort and leaves her with the family truck manufacturing plant, just as all the workers are being drafted and sent to the front, and she is left with orders she cannot fulfill.
Carolyn will enlist the women left behind to help her.
The fourth heroine, and perhaps the one who captures the heart the most, is Marguerite (Audrey Flerou, known from the beloved series "10 Percent") in the role of a woman who arrives in the village with a license to engage in prostitution, but with a completely different agenda, which puts her in danger.
Despite the very dramatic events of the first episode, the series takes time to draw us in, as it doesn't show us anything we haven't seen before and its strength lies in its characters, whom we've only just met.
The interest builds as we get to know the people who inhabit the plot and dive into the depths of their souls, and to a lesser extent, the vicissitudes of fate of the wartime plot.
She reaches the peak of her power in the middle chapters (there are eight in total), while the lives of the characters in the small village are already fascinatingly mixed with each other, and women and men who have not met before begin to influence each other's fate.
However, in the last two episodes, things start to resemble a bit of a soap opera - not in excessive pathos or unconvincing acting, but in the feeling that the characters are starting to get into all kinds of trouble just because the frame needs to be filled.
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Captivating the heart more than all of them.
Audrey Flerou in the role of Marguerite, "The Warriors" (Photo: Netflix)
It's a very effective drama, which is a nice way of saying it - almost all the right parts are here, it's totally watchable, but there's nothing new or unusual about it that would make it particularly memorable.
There are quite a few works like it, and you don't have to look far to find examples;
In the Netflix library there is a series called "Flames of Fate", also a stylized historical drama that revolves around three women during a national crisis in France about a century ago, and its three heroines are played by three of the main actresses of "The Warriors".
Even the posters of the two series are confusingly reminiscent of each other.
It's also not really the first series that presents us with the horrors of war specifically through the eyes of women, and they did it better than her.
Already in the early 1990s, the masterful American series "Women in War" ("China Beach") brought the story of the Vietnam War precisely through the trauma of the women who were involved, and managed to show the whole range of human emotions in extreme situations.
So yes, "The Warriors" knows how to make a drama, but it doesn't for example have a drop of humor, not even black humor as we would expect from a series of its kind.
Yes, the war is hell, and in terms of building a narrative narrative, it is a perfect background that provides us with peaks of emotion.
As viewers, we have already been exposed to many works that explore the subject from every angle, and we may have become numb.
Something more is needed to excite us.
It can be grandiose and brutal, or small and personal, it can be a political agenda or a message about the human spirit, but something in the directing or writing must bring the extra value.
"The Warriors" does not bring this additional thing.
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The thing is that she is not really interested in commenting on the subject or conveying a message or a lesson.
It does not try to reflect us ourselves as we are today, or to teach us that military technology has changed but the tragedy is the same tragedy even a hundred years later.
It's just some drama series, which happens to take place at the beginning of the First World War.
It could just as well have existed under any other disaster.
Say, a big fire.
Oops, that's the plot of "Flames of Destiny".