Next morning, the freaked-out soldiers expel the mysterious boy who has materialized in their midst; when Camille insists on tagging along, the not unsympathetic commanding officer (Pascal Greggory)—who has already warned her that traveling with them is a journey toward death—fires a warning shot that inexplicably pierces her hand. This wound insures that the soldiers will accept the lad into their ranks. But Camille's stigmata is not the only mystic sign: Without warning, the men break into song, accompanying their four-part harmonies with a range of makeshift fretted instruments.
While Camille seeks news of the front, the platoon resolutely avoids it. They skulk through trenches and are glimpsed, in one shock-cut, perched like monkeys in the trees. The France of La France is provocatively bucolic, although combat isn't completely absent: There are sounds of shelling, and horsemen armed with lances thunder across the horizon. Camille herself is a sort of Jeanne d'Arc: She nurses the wounded men and later boldly scales a watchtower, stabbing a sentry to save the platoon. (This prompts another song.)
No less than Camille, the lost platoon she joins is on a personal mission, and, given Camille's journey into the underworld to recover her husband, the two intertwined quests amount to the myth of Orpheus retold from a female perspective. Without ever surrendering its deadpan naturalism, La France becomes increasingly poetic: The seasons change, the landscape grows barren, and the stars in the sky take their names from the dead men below.
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