The Return of Martin Guerre

The Return of Martin Guerre is a French film directed by Daniel Vigne , released on. It is a fictionalized version of the Martin Guerre case that tells of the return of a countryman, after an absence of several years, in his native village. Although recounting many details of his previous life, Martin is accused by some villagers of impersonation and sowing doubt in the small community.


At the xvi th century , Martin returns to his hometown after several years of war. The man remembers everything, the inhabitants, their history and even the smallest detail. After some time, vagabonds identify Martin as Arnaud from the nearby village of Tilh, but the villagers reject these claims as lies. But when Martin asks his uncle for money, the uncle is indignant and attacks Martin. This leads to a trial of his identity, putting his life at stake since if he is not Martin, he and his wife Bertrande are adulterers and their bastard children.

Martin argues well and the villagers are divided on the question, Bertrande getting along with him. After several referrals to higher courts, the court of Parliament is finally seized and Judge Jean de Coras prepares to acquit Martin, mainly on the basis of the testimony of Bertrande, when at the last minute, another witness comes to the court. His resemblance to young Martin is very strong and calls into question the outcome of the trial. The impostor finally confesses that he was a soldier with the real Martin, that he told him that he would never return to his village, and that he decided to take his place. Even Bertrande changes his testimony and says that the new witness is Martin. Arnaud is then sentenced to death.

Some time later, Judge De Coras went to the village to tell Bertrande that she had been acquitted and cleared of conspiracy with Arnaud. He did, however, infer that she had recognized the impostor from the beginning and asked him the reason for his false testimony. She confesses that Arnaud was a better husband and a better man than Martin, giving him a good life together. De Coras asks her why she changed her mind at the last minute and she told him that she saw in Arnaud’s eyes that the affair had become desperate and that he wanted her and the children not to be trained. in his fall.

The film ends with Arnaud leading to the gallows, repenting all the time. A voice-over closes the historical framework by mentioning that Coras was executed a few years later for his Protestant beliefs.

Technical sheet

  • Director: Daniel Vigne
  • Screenplay, adaptation and dialogue: Jean-Claude Carrière and Daniel Vigne, based on the novel The Wife of Martin Guerre of Janet Lewis and the story of The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis
  • Assistant directors: Reynald Lampert, Michel Debats
  • Sets: Alain Nègre
  • Photography: André Neau
  • Editing: Denise de Casabianca
  • Music: Michel Portal
  • Sound: Michel Chamard
  • Historical Advisor: Natalie Zemon Davis
  • Fights settled by Claude Carliez
  • Production Manager: Paul Maigret
  • Production: Société Française de Production Cinématographique, Film Production Company Marcel Dassault, FR 3.
  • Distribution: GEF – CCFC
  • Genres: drama , historical
  • Format: Fujicolor Colors – 1.66: 1 – Mono sound
  • Year of production: 1981
  • Duration: 122 minutes
  • Language: French


  • Gérard Depardieu : Arnaud of the Tihl
  • Nathalie Baye : Bertrande de Rols
  • Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu : Martin War
  • Roger Planchon : John of Coras
  • Maurice Jacquemont : Rieux J.
  • Isabelle Sadoyan : Catherine Boere
  • Rose Thiéry : Raimonde de Rols
  • Maurice Barrier : Uncle Pierre War
  • Stéphane Péan : the young Martin
  • Sylvie Méda : the young Bertrande
  • Chantal Deruaz : Jeanne
  • Valérie Chassigneux : Guillemette
  • Cheky Karyo : Augustine
  • Dominique Pinon : Antoine
  • Adrien Duquesne : Sanxi War
  • Snow Dolsky : Jacquemotte, the blind
  • Daniel Giraud : the hawker
  • André Chaumeau : the priest
  • René Bouloc : the mercenary
  • Francis Arnaud : the hail
  • Philippe Babin : Jacques
  • Jean-Claude Perrin : Nicolas
  • Alex Bougousslavsky : the shoemaker


The film is shot in Haute-Garonne , Ariège ( Balagué ) and in the Pyrénées-Orientales 1 .

The shooting locations in the Pyrénées-Orientales are the Palace of the Kings of Majorca in Perpignan for the scenes of the trial and Fort de Salses for other scenes 1 .

According to Dominique Besnehard , then casting director, Didier Gentil participated in the shooting. He allegedly even committed violence against the child, Adrien Duquesne, who played the son of Nathalie Baye and Gerard Depardieu 2 .


  • César of the cinema 1983 :
    • Caesar for Best Original Screenplay or Adaptation
    • Caesar of the best music
    • Caesar of the best decor


This film is quoted in John Updike’s novel Rabbit en paix ( 1990 – 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction ) as a source of reflection for the character Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom on the change of identity and husband or wife. wife 3 .

In 2014 , Daniel Vigne made a documentary entitled Martin Guerre, back to the village : this 52-minute documentary returns, thirty years later, to Balagué 4 in Ariège where a part of the film was shot. Daniel Vigne comes to visit the inhabitants of the village who, for most of them, had transformed themselves into peasants of the 16th century for his film which carried them, as well as the elements of scenery of the site, on the screens of cinema. A documentary also in the form of an investigation of the memory, a rural snapshot of today of a village of mid-mountain.

The scenario for the film Sommersby , directed by Jon Amiel , is inspired by this fact.

See also


  • Jean-Noël Grando , 100 years of cinema in Pyrénées-Orientales: Stories and secrets of filming , Perpignan, Mare nostrum,, 197 p. ( ISBN  978-2-908476-96-5 , record BNF  FRBNF42318117 )

Related Articles

  • Martin War affair , the news that inspired the film;
  • Sommersby , remake of this film directed by Jon Amiel , with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster ;
  • Colonel Chabert , Balzac’s novelon a similar theme;
  • Colonel Chabert , adaptation of the previous novel also staging Gerard Depardieu .

External links

  • The Return of Martin Guerre  [ archive ] on the Internet Movie Database

Notes and references

  1. ↑ a and b Jean-Noël Grando , 100 years of cinema in Pyrénées-Orientales: Stories and Secrets shootings , Perpignan, Mare Nostrum,, 197 p. ( ISBN  978-2-908476-96-5 , record BNF  FRBNF42318117 )
  2. ↑ Elise Costa, Man Bites Dog: another news story behind “The Return of Martin Guerre”  [ archive ] , Slate , August 9, 2014. The article is based on the book The Children cinema (ed Paperback by François-Guillaume Lorrain
  3. ↑ Rabbit at Rest by John Updike , in Rabbit Angstrom, has Tetralogy , coll. “Everyman’s Library,” Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, 1995, ( ISBN  0-679-44459-9 ) , p. 1126.
  4. ↑, Barns of Balagué  [ archive ]

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