“Germinal” and “Lost Illusions”: classics applauded on the screens

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(AFP) – “Germinal” and “Lost Illusions”: the French are in favor of the adaptations for the small and the big screen of these two classics of 19th century literature , which resonate with today’s society.

The first two episodes of the series inspired by Emile Zola’s novel broadcast on France 2 on 27 October had the best audience of the evening with 4, 412 million viewers, or nearly 20% of spectators in front of their screens that evening.

And the film adaptation of Honoré’s book de Balzac recorded a great performance for its first week of theatrical release: more than 51. 000 0 spectators, a more than honorable place against the American blockbusters.

Written in the 19th century, these two works remain surprisingly modern, underline the specialists of the literature interviewed by AFP.

At the time, the industrial revolution upset the balance in France. At the start of the 21st century, it is the digital wave that is shattering the old economic and social models.

“In + Germinal +, these are the demands for justice social which may still be relevant, in a world which is certainly no longer that of the cleavage between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, but where the mechanisms of domination are still very present, “said AFP Andrea Del Lungo, professor of 19th century French literature at Sorbonne University.

– Tyranny of influencers –

Like the book published in 1885, the television series pays tribute to these proletarians, minors, crushed by the capitalist system.

The screenwriter, Julien Lilti, recently told France Inter to have started to write the scenario in full movement of the “yellow vests”, which “nourished (s) our writing and the work of setting in scene”.

Published in 1837, “Lost Illusions” also addresses contemporary themes through the rise of Lucien de Rubempré in the press world: the tyranny of influencers, the power of finance, the poison of rumor.

“Balzac understood everything. That modern society would be a bitter struggle and everything would be economic, that money would be the new code. He described the matrix of the modern world, “director Xavier Giannoli told AFP.

If we include the adaptation of” Eugénie Grandet “by Balzac (released a few weeks ago at the cinema), we observe in all three cases “a reflection on the condition of women, desperate in the 19th century, which resonates with the news”, adds Andrea Del Lungo, echoing the movement in particular # MeToo.

The characters use a language very close to ours, with repartees that we could pronounce today.

Thus, in the second episode of Germinal, the director of the Compagnie des Mines de Montsou notes that “the economy has become globalized.” “Some countries do not hesitate to lower the cost of production by taking over the workforce. ‘works as an adjustment variable “, he says.

-” A banker in government “-

” Lost illusions “makes a nod to the news, such as this prophecy” one day, we will have a banker in government nt “, or this mention of a duck (or false short story)” not yet chained “.

Zola and Balzac are among the French authors most transposed to the cinema and to the television. Their books belong to the French cultural heritage, they have been read and studied by several generations of middle and high school students: the films can therefore count on a crowd of curious people wishing to discover the adaptation.

For those who grew up with computer and smartphone screens, the filmed version allows “to quickly learn about these long and difficult novels”, underlines the president of the Society of Friends of Balzac, Anne-Marie Baron. An incentive to discover the literary text, she hopes.

And these adaptations are intended to be exported. “These novelists are very studied, translated and perhaps more appreciated in other countries than at home”, remarks Mrs. Baron.

“Their subject is a part of the history of France, observes Mr. Del Lungo. But there are features of universality which make them perfectly understandable for a foreign public “.

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