Screenwriter Julien Lilti (Hippocrate) and director David Hourrègue (SKAM France) deliver a powerful rereading of the novelist’s work on the workers’ revolt. A strong marker of the liveliness of French series on public service.
What is it about ?
Étienne Lantier, barely twenty, had to flee Lille after trying to organize workers in his factory. He finds refuge in Montsou and gets a job at the mine. He discovers with horror the hardness of the work at a depth of six hundred meters and the daily humiliations endured by the miners. However, he decides to stay, sensitive to the charm of Catherine, the daughter of the mining couple who lodges him.
With the weeks, Etienne becomes a good miner and is adopted by the whole settlement. One day, he and his comrades are fined for poor timbering. While spirits are heating up, Etienne thinks about a means of revolt and begins to dream of a social revolution ….
Germinal – 6X52 minutes
Wednesdays, October 27, November 3 and 10 on France 2 and a preview on SALTO
Who is it with?
After a remarkable performance in the Mental series, Louis Peres, 25, embodies a fiery and charismatic Etienne Lantier, figurehead of this choral series with a prestigious cast. Around him, Thierry Godard (Engrenages) and Alix Poisson (Influence games) are overwhelming in the roles of La Maheude and Maheu, at the head of a family of minors overwhelmed by poverty.
Jonas Bloquet (Daughters of Joy) plays a terrifying Chaval facing the Maheu’s daughter, Catherine (Rose-Marie Perreault), as resilient as she is powerless in the face of men’s violence. Sami Bouajila (Un Fils) plays Deneulin, an independent owner crushed by the weight of the big mining companies, while Steve Tientcheu (Les Misérables) is Rasseneur, a former worker torn between the prosperity of his cabaret and his compassion for the miners.
On the side of the bourgeois owners, Guillaume de Tonquédec (Une Affaire française) embodies Mr. Hennebeau, owner of the mine trapped between the orders of the shareholders and the workers’ revolt which is raging under his orders, alongside Natacha Lindinger (Sam), his wife who cheats on him with her nephew, a mining engineer played by Aliocha Schneider (Vampires), while he is promised in marriage to the young Cécile Grégoire, played by Marilou Aussilloux (The Revolution.)
Well worth a look ?
Published in 1885, Emile Zola’s novel, dense and imposing for many generations of college students who studied it in the French program, is not at its first adaptation. Six films in all, the most recent of which, directed by Claude Berri in 1993, made an impression on viewers. How is this new transposition for the small screen cut into six episodes worth the detour in 2021?
By discovering the first episodes of Germinal screened in preview at the Séries Mania Festival last September in Arenberg, on the very outskirts of the old mining site still in operation at the beginning of the last century and where part of the filming of series, the emotion was palpable in the audience, partly made up of former underground miners and their descendants.
Because contemporary French history has rarely been illustrated with such acuity in our fictions, and so much in phase with its territory and those who have shaped the history of social struggles. Why this lukewarmness, when our Anglo-Saxon neighbors have brilliantly surveyed each period of their collective history in fiction?
Initially published in the form of serials in newspapers, the great classics of 19th century French literature nonetheless fit perfectly into the DNA of series, and are still too unexploited a romantic manna. As such, the recent theatrical release of Lost Illusions, adapted from Balzac’s novel by Xavier Giannoli shows that his words – a virulent criticism of big business which already anticipated the birth of fake news – has lost none of its relevance. today.)
By tackling the work of Zola, Julien Lilti (co-writer of season 1 of Hippocrates) helped write Samir Oubechou, Clémence Lebatteux, Mélusine Laura Raynaud, Loïc Barrère, Chérif Saïs, Cheikna Sankare and Maud Garnier, strove to modernize the subject of the novel whose richness of different themes only asked to be revisited.
Class war, critique of capitalism, dangers of demagoguery and the figure of the leader, gender-based violence, the need for workers’ union and the convergence of struggles: everything was already present in the original material. Spread over six episodes, the series makes it possible to expand on secondary aspects of the novel through a necessary updating of the author’s gaze, in particular around the issues specific to female characters.
Alix Poisson, totally invested in the role of Maheude, underlines the place of women at the heart of the process of initiating the strike, they who also went “to the bottom” and held their homes at arm’s length. Facing her, Catherine, her daughter, resigns herself out of survival instinct and agrees to go over to the enemy by going to work for the competitor with Chaval, whom she fell under the influence after a rape that is not watered down for the viewer.
Two management systems are illustrated in the series: Deneulin (Sami Bouajila) and Hennebeau (Guillaume de Tonquédec) represent a different relationship to employees, the former caring about their well-being and ready to invest financially, and the another completely neglecting their living conditions to the point of selling off their labor force.
But by showing equally the internal conflicts of the leaders with the miners, Hennebeau in mind, whose sincerity of the game of Guillaume de Tonquédec allows the character to arouse enough empathy not to sink into a primary Manichaeism, the series makes it possible to understand the ramifications of system-wide violence.
Masterfully led by David Hourrègue, the production of the series, a co-production of France Televisions with Italy and Belgium, has nothing to envy to the ultra-polished productions of the BBC. From the direction of the extras to the care given to the music (composed by the talented Audrey Ismaël) to the choice of his choral cast, the director who cut his teeth on the teenage series SKAM France leaves nothing to chance, and completes take us to dizzying action scenes.
A fiction with a real epic breath, by which everyone can get carried away and convince. Because in vain we know by heart the heartbreaking fate of the Maheu, the fallen ascension of Etienne Lantier or the anger of the minors overwhelmed by misery and injustice, see these “black faces” today on a public service channel takes on a very special resonance.
Why redo and review Germinal today? At the dawn of a new economic and social crisis in the country, almost two years after the emergence of the Yellow Vests movement, what makes the strength of the work of Zola, a rebellious humanist in his time, is precisely to update his words through the ages, again and again, so that the lessons of the past are fruitful for a better future.
To go further around the series, listen to David Hourrègue talk about the creation of Germinal in Spotlight, the Allociné program recorded during the Séries Mania 2021 festival: