Breaker Morant by Janet Maslin

Breaker Morant by Janet Maslin

22 décembre 1980. Le passant solitaire est en quête de divertissement. Mais de divertissement intelligent. Qui donne à réfléchir. Ce début des années 80 lui laisse à penser que le cinéma va devenir déluré, sans complexe et favoriser la vente du pop-corn. L’avenir lui donnera raison. Mais aujourd’hui, ce sera Breaker Morant de Bruce Beresford et son regard critique sur une affaire qui a fait couler beaucoup d’encre.

Critique d’époque :

« Scapegoats of the Empire is the title of a book by someone who survived the affair on which Breaker Morant, a new Australian movie with a dependably old-fashioned manner, is based. The drama takes place in 1901, in South Africa, at the end of the Boer War. The action is confined almost exclusively to a trial, the outcome of which is a fait accompli. The mood of it recalls military drama of the 1950’s, like Terence Rattigan’s  »Ross. » In this case, the gears move almost automatically. There’s nothing unexpected here, but neither are there omissions of anything an audience might anticipate. As based on Kenneth Ross’s play, Breaker Morant is a shapely and orderly kind of drama. Its greatest strength is that it delivers what it promises.

Breaker Morant, which opens today at New York’s Cinema I, is the story of how three Australian soldiers become sacrificial lambs. It follows them to their fates with a mixture of high moral dudgeon and propriety. Lieut. Harry Morant, who earned the nickname of the title by being the best horse-breaker in his native Australia, is the victim of a British military that hasn’t prepared itself for the decline of strict discipline. The guerrilla fighting that characterized this conflict amounts to what one character labels  »a new kind of war – new war for a new century ».

As the film soon explains, the Boers’ guerrilla tactics have left the British unable to finish a war they have effectively won. So when Morant, to avenge the murder of a comrade at the Boers’ hands, allows his men to take reprisals, the British see an opportunity to make an example of Morant without truly losing one of their own. Australia won’t help him, either; having just become a Commonwealth, Morant’s homeland is eager to rid itself of a frontier atmosphere. Allowing Morant to be condemned for his allegedly roughneck morals becomes the new Australian Government’s way of taking on a civilized veneer.

Most of the Australian films that have been released in America take place at the turn of the century. Breaker Morant, like many of these, accounts for this turbulent period in Australia’ s history by exaggerating the gentility that the characters and their countrymen have tried to adopt, in reaction to British rule. In this case, the result is a touchingly stiff-upper-lip approach to the events that occur in the courtroom. The events are so unfortunate and unjust that the film’s air of restraining gives it a genuinely tragic dimension.

The director, Bruce Beresford, relying heavily on flashbacks to reconstruct the action, guarantees that the audience’s sympathies are never anywhere but with Morant and his men. But he also, until late in the story, maintains both a tension and a coldness by letting the defendants keep a tight rein on their fear. Lieut. Peter Handcock is allowed the occasional courtroom outburst, shouting,  »You couldn’t lie straight in bed! » to one witness and,  »Anytime, mate! » to another. But young Lieut. George Witton stays silently terrified throughout, and Morant vents his rage only through sarcasm.

The three actors who play these condemned men – Edward Woodward as Morant, Bryan Brown as Handcock and Lewis Fitz-Gerald as Witten – are all so good they make the movie as much a character study as a court-martial. The same is true of Jack Thompson, as the country lawyer who becomes unexpectedly resourceful as he rises to their defense. Mr. Beresford’s direction is at first so crisp that Breaker Morant appears headed for a familiar dead end – the land of stiff salutes, twitching mustaches, barked commands and other staples of movies about the military » par Janet Maslin pour le New York Times.

Janet Maslin a été touché par le destin tragique de ces trois soldats sacrifiés sur l’autel de la raison d’Etat. Elle loue la maîtrise de Bruce Beresford et l’interprétation des trois acteurs principaux. Breaker Morant est une réussite.

Retrouvez ma critique tout aussi enjouée directement par ici.


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2 réflexions sur « Breaker Morant by Janet Maslin »

  1. Je ne connaissais pas non plus. Mais pour moi qui me suis toujours passionné pour la guerre des Boers et la guerre anglo-zouloue, c’est du pain béni.

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