During the middle of the 16th century, Martin Guerre returns to his village in southwestern France, after being away in the war for almost a decade. The villagers who knew him as a young man suspect he is not Martin, but he seems to know all about his friends, his family and his wife, even the most unusual things. Is this man really Martin Guerre?
The Return of Martin Guerre (Le Retour de Martin Guerre) is a 1982 French film directed by Daniel Vigne, and starring Gérard Depardieu. It was based on a case of imposture in 16th century France, involving Martin Guerre.
About the Story
The film relates a historical case of alleged identity theft. Martin Guerre leaves his young wife in a small French village to go fight in a war, and to travel. Eight or nine years later, Martin (played by Depardieu) returns to resume his life. The man is initially acknowledged and welcomed by the wife, family, and friends because he knows the intimate details of his former life.
As time passes, however, vagabonds identify Martin as Arnaud of the neighbouring village of Tilh, but the villagers dismiss these claims as lies. But when Martin makes a demand for money he’s owed by his uncle, the uncle is outraged and attacks Martin. This leads to a trial on his identity, with his life at stake, since if he is not Martin he and Martin’s wife Bertrande are adulterers and their children bastards. This trial comprises most of the film.
Martin argues well, and the villagers are divided on whether the man is in fact Martin, Bertrande siding with him. After several elevations of the proceedings up to a court in the Parlement, the judge, Jean de Coras, prepares to acquit Martin primarily on the strength of the testimony of Bertrande.
At the last minute, another witness appears in court, bearing an even stronger resemblance to the young Martin and casting everything into doubt once more. The impostor confesses that he was a soldier with the real Martin, who said he was never going back to his village, upon which the impostor decided to take his place. Even Bertrande changes her mind and says the new witness is Martin. Arnaud is sentenced to death.
The Return of Martin Guerre (1982)
Directed by: Daniel Vigne
Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Nathalie Baye, Maurice Barrier, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Isabelle Sadoyan, Rose Thiéry, Chantal Deruaz
Screenplay by: Jean-Claude Carrière
Cinematography by: André Neau
Film Editing by: Denise de Casabianca
Costume Design by: Anne-Marie Marchand
Art Direction by: Alain Nègre
Music by: Michel Portal
Distributed by: European International
Release Date: May 14. 1982