THROUGH THE CENTURIES : The Second World War in my childhood memories and in a beautiful movie

Tonight I'm going to start my Period Drama Challenge. It has been proposed by Alex, Ana T. and Ana O. in their charming blog: LIGHTS, CAMERA ...HISTORY! I've subscribed for two categories:


2. VICTORIAN MIST (4 items).

On the whole, I'll have to review 8 costume movies or dramas I haven't seen yet in a year's time. I want to work on stuff I haven't seen nor reviewed yet, so that it can be a REALchallenge. I 've decided to begin with the first category and I'm going to post about movies telling a story set in the 20th, 19th, 18th and 17th centuries as in a journey back in time . Some days ago I was reading a post in Marianna's blog, one of my blogmates, and she was writing about a book she read and a film adaptation she saw . Suddenly I remembered I owned that DVD but I had never seen it. It had been one of my online bargains, paid half -price: CHARLOTTE GRAY (2001) starring Cate Blanchett, Rupert Penry-Jones, Michael Gambon and Billy Crudup. Director Gillian Armstrong. Based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks ( the finale of the book is quite different, though).


My interest in the Second World War time comes from my childhood experiences. Mind, I’m not that old! I'd better to explain ...

Falling asleep hearing the nightmarish sound of the terrifying booted march of German Nazi soldiers inside your pillow is not plausible if you are an 8/9- year-old little girl living in the 70s. But that happened to me almost every night. No princes nor princesses, no elves nor fairies, neither wizards, in my grandfather’s evening tales to us ; only real life, HIS real life. Well, it was me who asked him to tell me and my sister about his exciting adventures during the war and he willingly accepted. It was this way that my fascination for that period started…I learnt about his experiences in Africa where his younger brother died, his being caught and brought to India by the English, his return to Italy where he found his first son (my uncle) who feared him since he didn’t know him ( the poor little boy was only some months when hisfather had left), the Nazi occupation after the Armistice, the bombing of his native town by the American allies who wanted to force the Germans to leave, his attempts to protect his family ( now he also had two daughters, my mother and my aunt). Lessons of life, lessons of History I’ll never forget. So…whenever I see a movie set in that time I think of HIM, my first History teacher, my dear grandfather - who brouhgt me up with my grandmother since my parents worked 15 hours a day – of HIM who loved me dearly and now watches me from up there. It happened with this movie too. With “Charlotte Gray”.


In 1942, a young Scots woman, Charlotte Gray, travels to London to take a job. On the train she talks to a man sharing her compartment, and he - who works for one of the British secret service agencies at the time - gives her his card. Despite the war, social life in London is in full swing and the attractive, intelligent girl soon meets up with an airman, Peter Gregory. The temporary nature of life at the time is symbolised in their quickly lived relationship: she loses her virginity and also her heart to him. The intensity of the romance is heightened when Gregory is sent on a mission over France and news comes back to Charlotte that he didn't return and listed as missing in action.

Charlotte spent much of her childhood in France and speaks the language fluently - a talent that the secret service wishes to exploit in its effort to support the French Resistance. Charlotte decides to throw in her job and joins a Special Operations Executive (SOE)* training course. Once it has schooled her in methods of interrogation, dyed her hair a mousy brown and replaced her fillings, Charlotte is parachuted into France to complete a specified mission. But instead of doing her job and heading home, she sets out to find Gregory's whereabouts.
She assists at a parachute drop but then settles down as housekeeper to an ageing man, father of her main resistance contact, Julian. Over time she comes to understand him in a way she never had understood her own father. Both the old man and Charlotte's father fought in the First World War and bear lasting physical and psychological scars. She also helps to conceal two Jewish children, AndrĂ© and Jacob, after their parents are arrested and deported, and as 1942 progresses we learn about the steadily growing oppression of the Jews in France with complicity by the Vichy French government. Julian’s father is interviewed about his Jewish ancestry, and when he stays silent, his son denounces him in order to save the two little boys hidden in their house. The old man is then packed off with the two jewish boys AndrĂ© and Jacob to the prison camp/transfer station in Drancy where Charlotte manages to get them a moving message: a reassuring fake letter for the two boys saying that their parents are alive and will go and rescue them, they had to behave properly and eat well, meanwhile. The children and the old man, instead, will be shuttled like cattle to their deaths at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Although Charlotte has faith that Peter Gregory is still alive, she cannot trace him , so in 1943 goes back to London. Here, she will soon discover her hope has come true: Peter is alive. But their meeting is strange, she can’t feel for him any longer . Her life in France has changed her and she can’t go back to what she was like before. She has left her heart in France and must go back there: Julian is waiting for her, he has always loved her.



Kathryn said...

I've told a student of mine to take a look at your 'Learn on Line' blog - she has just finished the 4th year of Liceo Classico ind. linguistico and is having some difficulties in English - I can help her but I just wish she had a class teacher like you!!

Maria Grazia said...

You're very kind, K. I've posted two "remedial work" lessons for my IILB students (4th year of Liceo Classico tradizionale) on LEARN ON LINE. Your student might use those materials and you could correct the exercises for her. That's a good idea. I'm glad to be useful. Have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

Maria, I loved this film when I saw it a few years ago - reading your review makes me want to see it again. Great posting:)

I also appreciated you sharing your memories of your grandfather talking to you about the war. Judy

Maria Grazia said...

I was such a happy lucky child! I was brought up by two extraordinary people who taught me so much. My grandparents, my mother's parents. I owe them what I am today.
Thanks for appreciating and commenting, Judy.

London Belle said...

Hiya,I haven't had the internet for soooooooo long!!!

You should see this:

or get the books - theres two!!


Its real life World War Two

Maria Grazia said...

@London Belle
Welcome back among us, L.B.! I'll have a look at the things you've suggested. I'm on holiday, now!
Till very soon, then!

Elvira said...

I don't know why I had not read this post and I just love it: what you tell us about your grandfather and about the film. Thank you! Besos

Maria Grazia said...

Don't worry Elvira! It's never too late.
I'm glad you've read this post and kindly appreciated it.Hugs.

Anonymous said...

After reading your review Maria I added this film to my must see list. Imagine how delighted I was when by chance I stumbled across the DVD on sale yesterday at the local POst Office.

Maria Grazia said...

I'm glad to hear that. I hope you'll enjoy watching it at least as much as I did.