Le Voyage de Fanny (Fanny’s Journey)London Film Festival 2016
A World War II drama that highlights the plight of Jewish children during the Nazi occupation of France, Le Voyage de Fanny (Fanny’s Journey) is a moving story about a terrifying voyage taken to escape capture by the Gestapo and to reach a safe haven. At a boarding school in a French neutral zone, a group of teachers are warned of a Nazi raid and attempt to flee with their students to another school in Italy, with the young ones given false passports and new identities.
Directed by Lola Doillon, the piece touches on the tragic events that took place during this era, made far more poignant because children are the main characters. Charmingly portrayed, they are spirited and courageous, particularly the 12-year-old protagonist Fanny (Léonie Souchaud), who – due to their teacher, Madame Forman (Cecile De France) encountering trouble – is given the daunting role of leading the group of youngsters while they are in great danger. She is told “if you are scared, pretend otherwise for the sake of the others.” Although resistant at first, in the face of crisis, Fanny shows courage, ingenuity and leadership.
It does seem at times as though some scenes have slightly Sound of Music-type elements and a softer focus on a very chilling period in history. As escapism is a human tendency, perhaps Doillon believed presenting a less harsh version of the reality would be more palatable for audiences. However, the portrayal of childhood innocence serves as a contrast to the horrors of the Holocaust and a reminder that children were also forced to suffer terror, torture and murder – made more horrifying because of their guilelessness and because the young are supposed to be protected.
While all the actors are very good, young Souchaud – a relative newcomer – is excellent as Fanny, and De France performs beautifully as her strong, determined schoolmistress. Elie (Victor Meutelet) is well played as the optimistic but naïve teenage boy who wants to enlist to fight the Nazis. Pierre Cottereau’s cinematography is superb in its echoing of tension, fear and claustrophobia through the use of tight camera angles and close-ups. In summary, Le Voyage de Fanny (Fanny’s Journey) is a well-crafted, heartbreaking film, showing that even children are capable of tremendous courage and resourcefulness in the face of dire circumstances.
Le Voyage de Fanny (Fanny’s Journey) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Fanny’s Journey here: