The French television series The French Village is a must-watch series. I am addicted to this show, and trying to ration my binge-watching so it doesn’t end. Thankfully, there are seven seasons, and I am only halfway through Season 4. There are so many reasons this show is excellent, entertaining, and significant. The show takes place in the fictional French village of Villeneuve and begins in June 1940 on the day Germany invaded Franch.
Complex Characters and Complex Issues
Over the course of the show, we meet a broad range of characters such as the town’s doctor Daniel Larcher, and his conflicted relationship with his communist brother Marcel Larcher. Many World War II shows make the mistake of portraying Germans and Nazis as stock evil characters, which makes for a stereotypical story that lacks depth and ignores the human beneath the uniform. In The French Village every character is both flawed and human, even the ones you love or hate. True to time, they evolve in motives and character as the war drags from one year into the next. I am vested in every character and am transported back in time.
War is never black and white, nor is life. There’s romance between German soldiers and French women, police collaboration with the Germans, the Resistance movement, competing politics, arrest of the town’s Jews, hiding of Jews, and the moral choices everyone faces during occupation and war. The real draw of the show is the people, their lives, their lovers, their failures, their parties, and their loyalties. Every episode ends with a cliffhanger that keeps me coming back.
The Impact of Historical Accuracy
The French Village honors historical accuracy down to every detail. At the end of Seasons 1-3, there are short historical vignettes filmed with real survivors of the Resistance, and a French historian who reviews the French experience in every way, all of which the series touches on. At least two actors have direct family ties to WWII and the Holocaust.
Thierry Godard, who plays Raymond Schwartz, had relatives who fought in the French Resistance. Richard Sammel, who plays the despicable Heinrich Müller was born in Heidelberg, Germany in 1960, and is also fluent in French, making him a perfect German in occupied France. In a YouTube interview, he relates that one grandfather was an ordinary German soldier who died in a prison in Siberia. His father’s father was a prisoner in Buchenwald, not as Jewish, but as a German citizen.
The most exceptional quality of this show, and its historical importance, is that it faces and presents the full extent of French collaboration with the Germans. During World War II, the French Vichy government adopted a strong authoritarian policy of German collaboration and strongly promoted anti-Semitism. French police helped deport more than 72,000 Jews. Per an article in the Smithsonian magazine, November 9, 2017, “Before the Nazis ever demanded the Vichy government participate in anti-Semitic policies, the French had enacted policies that removed Jews from civil service and began seizing Jewish property.”
Where to Watch The French Village
Season one of the series runs on Amazon Prime. To watch the full series, you’ll have to subscribe to MHz Choice, a streaming service for foreign and international content. The $8.49/month subscription is worth every penny to access this show. Click here for link to the show.
Anyone with an interest in World War II will love this show. If you decide to watch, let me know your thoughts. No spoilers please if you get ahead of me. I’m savoring every episode.
Thank you for sharing this. We are always looking for a worthwhile series and were not familiar with this one. We were able to request the first season from our library. We are looking forward to receiving it and learning something new as we enjoy it.
You are welcome. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know!
Katrina, what a marvelous review! It makes me want to start all over again, but I can’t spend any more time in the woods with the Resistance. It’s the best series I’ve ever watched. It’s still with me, although I finished months ago. It got me through the pandemic! I still think about the characters, especially Marie and her bravery. It’s the first time France has addressed “collaborators.” A great history lesson!
A French Village provides a compelling view of people dealing with the moral complexities of navigating life during the WW II German occupation of this fictional village. This is an incredibly thoughtful and exceptionally well done series.
I’m so glad you think so as well.
This really is an exceptional show. I have watched it 2 times now, and just began watching it again., and of course, have been sucked back into the day to day lives of the people of Villeneuve. It draws you in so completely. For me, the real strength of the show is how is shows you even the most despicable characters have some redeeming qualities. Who would have thought my favorite character would be an SS Leader…. Müller really is a fascinating and well written character. These were real people who made mistakes.. and I like how this is shown. War is never ever black and white. Unless YOU have walked in someone else’s shoes, you really have no idea what YOU would have done, etc. I am a Brit, my mom and dad were in WW 2, but now I live in the US and I am so sick and tired of listening to, sorry to say, ignorant Americans who can’t wait to say, oh the French, yeah, they all just capitulated and collaborated etc… the truth is so far from that.
Thanks so much for this well-thought out comment. You are so right on every level, and indeed war is very complex. Best wishes,
I didn’t understand who the Jewish woman with the number 281001 and why Mrs larcher calls out that number while in the asylum
I loved this series and I guess I will have to watch again to pick up what I missed.
Thanks for the feedback. I don’t remember the exact episode this was in, but I’m glad you enjoyed the show. Best wishes,