Je Suis un Soldat (I Am a Soldier)
Finding herself out of work and unable to pay the rent, Sandrine (Louise Bourgoin) moves back in with her mother. When her uncle (Jean-Hugues Anglade) offers her a job at his kennels, she is initiated into the underground world of dog trafficking, where puppies are bought and sold by the kilo, and disposed of in batches when they grow too old to sell.
A new facet of her uncle’s life reveals itself, but Sandrine takes it in her stride and soon discovers her own knack for the business. Granted, there is money to be made in it, but Sandrine’s apparent adeptness for such an unethical venture wedges a gap between her and the audience, as we struggle to fully empathise with her motivations, not to mention her apathy in the face of animal cruelty. The film also strikes a nerve in showing the corrupt prosper as the rest of society barely manages to make ends meet.
Nevertheless, Bourgoin’s astonishing performance brings a vulnerability that makes her character very difficult to condemn entirely. Bathing everything in a stark, cold light, Laurent Larivière creates a sense of solitude surrounding Sandrine, but offers the protagonist the possibility of a connection and possible redemption through an unlikely love interest.
Although the risks of Sandrine’s situation are never explicitly outlined, Je Suis un Soldat is pervaded by moral ambiguity and a sense of impending doom, perhaps precisely because we cannot know what to expect. Even at home, where Sandrine is surrounded by the love of her family, the conversation often revolves around money problems, so that there is rarely a moment when the protagonist (and by extension the audience) is allowed to feel truly at ease.
Je Suis un Soldat (I Am a Soldier) does not yet have a UK release date.
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Watch an excerpt of Je Suis un Soldat here: