Certain literary characters emerged victorious from the war with time, entering the constellation of the priceless values of humanity. The short film signed by Edouard Dossetto is focused on such a character, but also on a painful moment detached from a monstrous war. The title is more than suggestive – Cyrano aux tranchées – while the narrative consistency of this project is provided by the homonymous play written by Joseph Suberville who immortalized the devotion of the French army during the Battle of Verdun. Despite its historical film appearance recomposing with authenticity the setting of a battlefield, the visceral realism is counterpointed by “livresque” elements that push the atmosphere towards a slightly fantastic area. The character Cyrano, returned from the moon, appears in this short film as a kind of metaphor of French identity, embodying the absolute prototype of the sublime idealist who manages through his Don Quixotesque attitude to give his fellow soldiers hope for the bright future of their people. This mix of features with post-modern inflections are complemented by a theatrical dialogue in which the beauty of the French sonority is supported by the pathos of some characters recalling Victor Hugo’s romantic heroes. Therefore, the director doesn’t necessarily want to insist on the veracity of a past event in itself in order to create a docudrama, for example, but to create a metaphorical response to a crucial moment in the First World War, while subtextually following the “theatre as life and life as theatre” principle.
Undeniably, the risk that this project will only be truly enjoyed by connoisseurs of French culture is inevitable. Likewise, viewers who do not resonate with the classic theatrical “artificiality” or with such theatrical-cinematic interferences may not appreciate the true quality of this short film. However, regardless of the viewers’ taste, it is impossible not to see in this short film the professionalism of a convincing aesthetic directorial vision and the passion of impeccable actors whose feverish energy evokes the magic of the great writings of humanity.
Cyrano de Bergerac may be French, but his image, the symbol behind the character, transcends geographical boundaries, just as Don Quixote doesn’t belong to Cervantes, but to the whole world. Thus, Edouard Dossetto invites us not necessarily to see another perspective on a historical moment, but to try to understand through the filter of literature, theatre and art, the whims of a history that formed us and that we must know. Though ‘Cyrano aux tranchées’ will most likely only be appreciated by a niche audience, even a “neophyte” viewer can find in this project an enjoyable cinematic experience.