Germinal (movie, 1993)

Germinal is a Franco-Belgian film, taken from the homonymous novel by Émile Zola , directed by Claude Berri , released in 1993 .


Towards the end of the xix th century , Etienne Lantier , engine- unemployed, arrived at the mine “The Voreux” in northern France. After the death of a leafminer named Fleurance, he is engaged. He is sent to a small group led by Toussaint Maheu, who will become his friend. The Maheu family has ten people: Maheu, a miner, his father, also working at the mine, his wife, Maheude, and their children. Zachariah, Catherine and Jeanlin, the elders, also work at the mine; Alzire, hunchback, keeps the bed; Leonore, Henri and the youngest are still too small to work.

“The Voreux” is directed by Hennebeau, whose nephew, Paul Négrel, is the main engineer. This mine belongs to shareholders, “who live in Paris”. The mine “Jean Bart”, its neighbor, belongs and is directed by Victor Deneulin. The Grégoire family, whose wife is Deneulin’s sister, organizes the wedding of their daughter, Cécile, with Paul Négrel. Paul is driven to this marriage by his aunt and lover, Madame Hennebeau.

Housed by the village innkeeper, Rasseneur, Étienne quickly immersed himself in the political discussions concerning the work in the mine. Rasseneur, of socialist opinion, and Souvarine, anarchist, are opposed in their vision of the actions to be carried out to make understand to the direction the conditions of work more and more hard of the minors. Etienne, even if he understands the visions of Rasseneur, who advocates membership of the newly created AIT , prefers to raise with his comrades a provident fund, which would serve in case of strike. The families of the miners are already all heavily indebted to the local grocer, Maigrat.

At the same time, Zacharie, Maheu’s eldest son, is getting married. The youngest son, Jeanlin, breaks a leg during a landslide, and can no longer be employed by the mine at full speed. In order to continue to have a correct income, the Maheu family takes Étienne in pension. He is not long in falling in love with Catherine, the eldest daughter, who is not insensitive to his presence. She is however “fiancée” of Chaval, minor also to the Voreux, then to Jean Bart.

When the leadership of the Voreux imposes a decline in the price of the coal sedan and the payment of the woodwork apart, resulting in a decline in the pay miners, they try to reason Mr. Hennebeau then go on strike. At the end of a month, the strike still lasts at Voreux. Catherine now lives with Chaval and is despised by her mother, who accuses her of leaving with her pay. During a meeting, Maheu and Étienne apostrophent Chaval, come as a spectator, reproaching him for being a traitor. Chaval enjoins them to come to Jean Bart the next day, declaring that the miners there will also go on strike to support them.

But the next day, Chaval, after trying to organize the strike, gives in front of the offer of Deneulin who offers to be porion . He goes down with Catherine, while Etienne and the Voreux people set out. Once at Jean Bart, these and the strikers of Jean Bart ransack and burn the premises; Maheu cuts himself with the ax of the elevator. The ruin of Deneulin is signed.

When Chaval and Catherine rise to the surface by the ladders, they are greeted by insults and horrors on the part of the strikers. Étienne misses out and kills Chaval; Catherine intervenes. Resuming his spirits, Étienne and his troops return to the Voreux, where they besiege the grocery store of Maigrat. The latter, taking fright, tries to flee through the roofs, but falls and kills himself; the women of the miners cut off her genitals to avenge her advances. With that, the gendarmes arrive to impose calm again. Etienne, designated as a leader, is forced to hide.

When the gendarmes are convinced that he has gone to Belgium, he can finally come out of his hiding place, and learns from Rasseneur that the Voreux leadership has called in Belgian miners. Chaval, who has left Catherine and returned to the Voreux, will lead them, and the army will be charged with the protection of the mine. Alzire Maheu dies. The day of the arrival of the Belgians, the French miners form a crowd to convince the troop to let them pass. The discussion degenerates and the officer commanding the battalion is wounded: the soldiers fire on the miners. Maheu is killed. Étienne is forced to hide again.

He eventually goes out to join the work and give up the strike. Accompanied by Catherine, he goes down again to the bottom. But Souvarine put his intentions into action: he sabotaged structures that prevent water from drowning the mine. The miners are trying to get out of the old chimneys, but Catherine, Chaval and Etienne are trapped in a cul-de-sac. Stephen kills Chaval during a fight; Catherine ends up recognizing her feelings and gives herself to him, thinking that they will die.

Relief, organized by Négrel, try to locate the last survivors. Zacharie, aiding research, is killed by the explosion of a firedamp pocket. Father Maheu, he loses his reason and strangles Cécile Grégoire, came with his parents to do charity. When help enters the cul-de-sac, only Stephen is still alive. Outside, Maheude, sees the corpse of her daughter and invokes Stephen hard.

He ends up leaving the Voreux. He goes one last time to the entrance of the mine, to say goodbye to his old comrades. He meets Maheude, who also returns to the bottom: she apologizes for having made her responsible for her misfortunes. She also tells him that Father Maheu is still at home, but that his former minor’s pension has been canceled. She expects that soon her last three children will join the ranks of the workers, like her and Jeanlin. Étienne leaves the Voreux, thinking that his fight was not completely futile.

Technical sheet

  • Title: Germinal
  • Director: Claude Berri , assisted by Frédéric Auburtin
  • Script: Claude Berri and Arlette Langmann , based on the eponymous novel by Emile Zola (1884-1885)
  • Production: Renn Productions , DD Productions , Alternative Films (Belgium), ( Nuova Artisti Associati Italy)
  • Producers: Claude Berri and Gérard Depardieu
  • Associate producer: Bodo Scriba
  • Executive producer: Pierre Grunstein
  • Music: Jean-Louis Roques
  • Director of Photography: Yves Angelo
  • Photographer: Benoît Barbier
  • Editing: Hervé de Luze
  • Sets: Christian Marti and Hoang Thanh At
  • Makeup: Joel Lavau
  • Sound: Pierre Gamet
  • Mixing: Dominique Hennequin
  • Costumes: Pierre-Jean Larroque
  • Distribution: AMLF
  • Country of origin: Belgium , France and Italy
  • Format: Colors – 2.35: 1 – Dolby Surround – 35 mm
  • Genre: Drama
  • Duration: 170 minutes (France), 160 minutes (Belgium)
  • Release date : 
  • Classification : Not allowed under 12 years


  • Miou-Miou : The Maheude
  • Renaud : Étienne Lantier
  • Gérard Depardieu : Toussaint Maheu
  • Jean Carmet : Vincent Maheu says Bonnemort
  • Judith Henry : Catherine Maheu
  • Jean-Roger Milo : Antoine Chaval
  • Laurent Terzieff : Souvarine
  • Bernard Fresson : Victor Deneulin
  • Jean-Pierre Bisson : Rasseneur
  • Jacques Dacqmine : Philippe Hennebeau
  • Anny Duperey : Mrs. Hennebeau
  • Frederic van den Driessche : Paul Négrel
  • Annick Alane : Mrs. Grégoire
  • Pierre Lafont : Leo Gregory
  • Yolande Moreau : The Levaque
  • Gérard Croce : Maigrat
  • Thierry Levaret : Zacharie Maheu
  • Albano Guaetta : Jeanlin Maheu
  • Séverine Huon : Alzire Maheu
  • Jessica Sweat : Lenore Maheu
  • Mathieu Mathez : Henri Maheu
  • Alexandre Lekieffre : Maxime
  • Georges Staquet : Levaque
  • Sabrina Deladerière : Philomène Levaque
  • Maximilian Reggiani : Pierron
  • Joël Petit : Bebert
  • Anne-Marie Pisani : The Mouquette
  • André Julien : Mouque
  • Yvette Petit : The Widow Desire
  • Solenn Jarniou : me Rasseneur
  • Fred Person : Pluchart
  • Cécile Bois : Cécile Grégoire
  • Delphine Quentin : Lucie Deneulin
  • Alexandrine Loeb : Jeanne Deneulin
  • Fred Ulysse : Dansaert
  • Frédérique Ruchaud : Honorine
  • Maryse Moutier : Mélanie
  • Jenny Clève : Rose
  • Nathalie Hequet : Amelie
  • Bruno Tuchszer : The captain of the guards
  • Fernand Kindt : The secretary of the company
  • André Chaumeau : The cashier of the company
  • Philippe Desboeuf : The doctor
  • Corinne Masiero : A ball dancer (uncredited)


  • Césars 1994 :
    • Best photography ( Yves Angelo )
    • Best costumes ( Sylvie Gautrelet , Caroline de Vivaise and Moidele Bickel )
  • Also nominations in the categories:
    • Best film ( Claude Berri )
    • Best director ( Claude Berri )
    • Best Screenplay ( Claude Berri and Arlette Langmann )
    • Best editing ( Hervé de Luze )
    • Best music ( Jean-Louis Roques )
    • Best scenery ( Hoang Thanh At )
    • Best sound ( Pierre Gamet and Dominique Hennequin )
    • Best Actress ( Miou-Miou )
    • Best Supporting Actor ( Jean-Roger Milo )
    • Best Supporting Actor ( Judith Henry )

Around the film

  • Claude Berri absolutely wanted Renaud to interpret the role of Etienne Lantier. It took him three years to accept the role, but he still retains a bitter taste of this cinematic experience. The film, which lasted 3:38, was amputated several scenes where he played, which made his character incomprehensible according to him. On the other hand Renaud retains the impression that Claude Berri regarded him as a puppet, who had to repeat every sentence exactly as he spoke it, without his own personal touch.
  • Claude Berri pays tribute again to his father through this film. Artisan furrier Faubourg Saint-Denis, he voted Communist and fought for a better world.
  • Most of the extras (eight thousand in all) were chosen from former miners, sons and grandchildren of miners.
  • The film cost 165 million francs , which at that time was the most expensive film in the history of French cinema.
  • The Arenberg Pit was saved from destruction by the movie. Opened in 1903 and decommissioned in 1989, it was listed as a historic monument in 2010 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. It currently houses a center for film creation.
  • The Regional Council of Nord-Pas-de-Calais granted a grant of 10 million francs, which allowed the project to start. After the film’s success, which totaled 6 million admissions, Claude Berri wanted to repay this money among all those in the region who had worked on it, but the president of the region, Marie-Christine Blandin , then advised him to create a foundation to help people in the region who are struggling financially to start a business 1 .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ 11 incredible stories about GERMINAL by Claude Berri  [ archive ] , Followatch

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