J'accuse (1919) is a French silent film directed by Abel Gance. It juxtaposes a romantic drama with the background of the horrors of World War I, and it is sometimes described as a pacifist or anti-war film. Work on the film began in 1918 and some scenes were filmed on real battlefields. The film's powerful depiction of wartime suffering, and particularly its climactic sequence of the "return of the dead", made it an international success, and confirmed Gance as one of the most important directors in Europe.[
- jaar uitgave: 1919
- regisseur: Abel Gance
In a Provençal village in the south of France, the villagers welcome the declaration of war with Germany in 1914 and flock to enlist. Among them is François Laurin, a man of jealous and violent temperament, who is married to Édith, the daughter of an upright veteran soldier Maria Lazare. François suspects, correctly, that Édith is conducting an affair with the poet Jean Diaz who lives in the village with his mother, and he sends Édith to stay with his parents in Lorraine - where she is subsequently captured and raped by German soldiers. François and Jean find themselves serving in the same battalion at the front, where the initial tensions between them give way to a close friendship which acknowledges that they both love Édith In 1918 Jean is discharged through ill-health and returns to the village, to find his mother dying. Édith reappears from captivity, now with a young half-German daughter Angèle. Her father, Maria Lazare, immediately leaves to avenge the shame to the family name. When François comes home on leave, Jean and Édith fear his reaction to the illegitimate child and try to conceal her from him, which merely revives his jealous suspicions of Jean, and the two men fight. When the truth is revealed, François and Jean agree to seek their vengeance in battle and both return to the front. In a great battle, in which a mythical figure of Le Gaulois leads on the French forces, François is wounded and dies in the field hospital. Jean, meanwhile, is so shell-shocked that he becomes insane. He returns to the village and gathers the inhabitants together to tell them of his vision on the battlefield: from the graves of the dead, soldiers arise and gather in a great cohort that marches through the land, back to their homes. Jean challenges the villagers to say whether they have been worthy of the men's sacrifices, and they watch in horror as their dead family and friends appear on the threshold. The soldiers return to their rest, and Jean goes back to his mother's house. There he finds a book of his own poems which he tears up in disgust, until one of them, his Ode to the Sun, drives him to denounce the sun for its complicity in the crimes of war. As the sunlight fades from the room, Jean dies.