Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Well-Diggers' Daughter

The well-digger and his family marching home from town.
For some reason, the 2011 French film The Well-Digger's Daughter reminded me of the 1938 American film Four Daughters--two movies in the same spirit?  The French film is based on a story by the beloved writer Marcel Pagnol and was directed by tFrench actor Daniel Auteuil, who plays the part of the well-digger, a widower with six daughters living in the southern Provence region of France right on the cusp of World War I.

The well-digger's two older daughters take care of the family, but the movie concerns one daughter in particular--the very beautiful Patricia, who had grown up in Paris as the child-companion of a wealthy woman. Returning to her birthplace, Patricia takes on the job of rearing the younger girls in the family and with her sister, all the housekeeping chores that keep her father and his brood intact. Woe to Patricia when she by chance meets the good-looking son of the local retailer, who soon woos the saintly young woman, who, despite her humble background, has the air of refinement of a Parisian. Within a day of the wooing, the young man is off to war, leaving Patricia, who, it turns out, is now pregant. Crisis in the home of M. Pascal Amoretti, well-digger. Amoretti's attempts to marry his daughter off to his co-worker are of no avail, and he bids her to leave home and have her child at her aunt's in a town far enough away, he hopes, that no scandal will come to his name and household.

The rest of the movie concerns the reconciliation of father with daughter and with the family of the seducer, which had had no interest in aiding Patricia or her offspring.

Patricia delivers the mid-day meal to her father (r) and his co-worker, who is smitten with her.
I found The Well-Digger's Daughter a beautifully made and thoroughly charming story from beginning to end. I found it on Netflix and from the comments and reviews I have read, it appears that people either love or hate this film. I deeply appreciated it, because it was filled with an innocence and lack of cynicism so rare in cinema today. At the point of its ending, I was in joy at the experience of watching it--the subject is love in the family--sans caveats, grudges, conditions, accusations, bitterness, regrets, rebellions, resentments, condemnations, or at least not for long.

I have never read any books by Marcel Pagnol's but I also found charming two French films based on his autobiographical works, My Father's Glory (1990) and My Mother's Castle (both available at Netflix). Watching them, I can see why joie de vivre is a French phrase.

Pascal Amoretti embraces his fallen daughter.

1 comment:

Jodi said...

I've never been disappointed with any film that you have recommended, so I'll be checking this one out. Are you going to be up this way any time soon?