Jean de Florette, 1986. French with English subtitles

From the series: Life on Dog Hill

My husband is an early riser. During the week, he’s often working in his home office by 3:30 in the morning. Most weekends, however, he’s downstairs watching food and travel shows and movies that he’s recorded through the week. He especially enjoys foreign films and this weekend he introduced me and our youngest son Ryan to a great 1986 French series: Jean de Florette and it’s sequel Manon des Sources. The English subtitled versions were released in the US in August and December 1987, respectively.

Set in France right after World War I, the story demonstrates village insularity, the hardships of farming and our reliance on natural resources. What makes it so great? Beautiful filming, excellent acting and the unfolding of the plot.

Jean de Florette was highly acclaimed and received numerous awards both in France and as a noted foreign film including the Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the 1987 Golden Globe Awards. On the IMDb site, both movies rank an 8 out of 10 with 13,774 votes on Jean de Florette and 11,457 on its sequel. That’s a lot of online voters agreeing that this is one of the all time great foreign films.

What captivated me most was that the first movie set up a great plot for a sequel of revenge when a young girl learns that the neighboring land owners hid the water source on the farmland just prior to her family’s arrival. It was the search for water that killed the little girl’s father.

As a writer, I’m captivated by plot and, in particular, how the story unfolds so I had to see the sequel to watch the little girl grow up into a woman and exact revenge. And, while revenge came, it was not in the way I had expected — it was much more clever. The full story doesn’t revel itself until the very end and while I was not surprised by its conclusion, it was so well told and acted that I couldn’t stop the tears from falling.

You absolutely can’t watch the first film without seeing the second! And, you really must watch the first film before seeing its sequel for your heart to really be there.

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