Summer 1914. Imagining the war to be “a great spectacle not to be missed,” 19-year-old Gabriel (Nino Rocher) volunteers for the French Army—more out of curiosity than the mad, virulent nationalism that consumes the populace. Accompanied by his best friend Bertrand (Eliott Margueron) and young poet Théo (Théo Chazal), he arrives at the battlefront within a few days and is soon engulfed in the horrors of trench warfare. Recounting his experiences in a series of voiceover letters to his sweetheart back home, Gabriel maintains a detached and rational view of the ordeal of war, which is complemented by the anarchic rabble-rousing of the sardonic Sergeant Négre (Pierre Martial Gaillard). Meanwhile, offsetting the film’s emphasis on the inner life and dissent of its protagonist, Damien Odoul’s direction, which earned him the 2015 Prix Jean Vigo, supplies a relentlessly physical depiction of the realities of life and death in the killing fields. Based on Gabriel Chevallier’s 1930 autobiographical novel, The Fear moves at a fast clip, replete with painterly landscape shots and images of startling, surreal horror. Never less than gripping, this is not so much a film about combat than a series of dispatches from a war zone, warts and all. A Wild Bunch release.
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