The Return of Martin Guerre (1982), by Daniel Vigne, starring Gérard Depardieu (Arnaud de Tihl), Nathalie Baye (Bertrande de Rols), and Roger Planchon (Jean de Coras) is a well-made film that stays loyal to history while entertaining the audience by portraying the social and cultural atmosphere surrounding the story. The Return of Martin Guerre is set in a small French village in the 1560, twelve years before the St. Bartholomew Massacre in 1572. Considering the timeframe, it takes place during the peak of the French Renaissance, past the Italian War of 1551 and after Renaissance humanism spread to France. The film highlights these historical events by having the characters make various references to the Italian War throughout the film, through Martin Guerre’s lost limb and Arnaud de Tihl’s broadened shoulders. Also, we see that investigator Jean de Coras adheres to truth and accuracy over the practical application of law, as a humanist would, and later gets killed during the St. Bartholomew Massacre, along with many other humanist Protestants.
The film does an amazing job reflecting the time period by showing a relatively accurate representation of what would be expected in Renaissance France with the background, appropriate clothing, and simple props throughout the movie. The characters’ acting and behavior also adheres to what would be expected during this time by reflecting their superstitious concerns, susceptibility to bribery and moral concerns by the Catholic French. For example, although Jean de Coras uses logic and reasoning to deduce if Arnaud is imposing as Guerre, he also factors in a suspicion of a demonic possession. Also, towards the end of the film he has a personal heart-to-heart conversation with Bertrande, talking about her actions in the context of religious morals.
The film is based off the historical accounts of Arrest Memorable, by Jean de Coras, and the director does an immaculate job filling...