A boy needs a dog, and nowhere is that more true than in the vast landscape of the Rhône Alpes. This French adventure is one for the family.
Sebastian is alone in his belief that a wild “beast” hunted by local villagers is not responsible for mauling the sheep. Set apart from other schoolchildren by the fact that he is an orphan in the provisional care of a home-brewing foster grandfather, the young lad befriends the enormous mountain dog, cleans her up, and fittingly names her Belle.
But the loss of farm animals is not the worst thing happening to the little French village. It is the final years of World War II, and German troops are in town to try to flush out those responsible for helping refugee families across the Swiss border.
Pretty Angelina, at the bakery, is instructed to supply bread to the men. She has caught the attention of the Lieutenant Peter, the handsome German who makes the effort to speak chivalrous French. So what does that mean for Doctor Guillaume, who also seems fond of Angelina, and is caught up in caring for Sebastian?
The big screen brings home the massive effort required to flee across the perilous ice and snow. The film is set in a time of scarcity and hardship, but also of strength and courage in the face of danger. The scenery is awe-inspiring, traced through the seasons, but always featuring the snow-tipped mountains.
Animal lovers won’t be disappointed by the dog-play, nor by the wolves. The soundtrack features a couple of songs that underscore the concept of childhood innocence and untarnished beauty of nature. Other pleasures involve the costuming, with exquisite knitted jumpers, even those that have seen many years’ wear.
From a favourite French children’s novel made into a 1960s TV series then ’80s anime, this movie deserves attention. See it in the cinema.
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