Bob was sent a voucher to get a free film over the Internet – and we chose “The Monuments Men” It was a film we both quite enjoyed and is based on a true story.
Once you get past the fact that the cast are [mostly] a load of very familiar US actors [plus our own dear Lord Grantham, aka Hugh Bonneville] and the real characters they portray were possibly not as photogenic as Messrs Clooney and Damon, it is an OK film.
But the one significant female character fascinated me. Played by Cate Blanchett, “Claire Simone” is based on an amazingly brave Frenchwoman, Rose Valland. Working in Paris as an assistant in the Jeu de Paume Museum, she was the only French person allowed to stay on when the Germans took over and used it as a base for the ERR [Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg] This was the Nazi organisation dedicated to acquiring Europes finest works of art for Hitler. They stole, and then hid, many masterpieces.
Rose kept a low profile, and spoke only French- so the Nazis never realised she was fluent in German – and she understood all their conversations!
But she kept a secret inventory of the works of art which passed through her hands- and after the war was able to help recover millions of pounds worth of art treasures. Her assistance to the Monuments Men was invaluable.
Valland’s accomplishments were virtually unrecognized in France during her lifetime, and she died in 1980 in relative anonymity. She is buried in her home village of Saint-Etienne-de-Saint-Geoirs where the Association de la Mémoire de Rose Valland has been founded to honour her life and work. [website here] Corinne Bouchoux wrote a book [in French] in 2006 which was translated into English and published last year, in time for the film release.
I don’t think MM is a particularly brilliant film in terms of accuracy – lots of technical mistakes about equipment in use in the 1940’s, and geographical errors too. And there is no way Cate B’s character would have attempted a romance with Matt D’s US Officer, Rose just wasn’t that sort of woman. But it was a film that made me want to find out more about these people, and I guess that improves my final verdict. I might not have paid to see it at the cinema, but a free viewing was certainly enjoyable. Verdict ***
I ought to say that whilst I was happy just to watch the film then search for information online, Bob decided that it made him want to take the tent and motorbike across to Belgium for another camping holiday, to seek out these treasures now restored to their original homes. Like the Michelangelo Madonna in Bruges. So watch this space…
One other thing- the Rose Valland Association have developed a special flower in her honour – the Rose Valland Rose – which will go on sale next year. I wonder if my Francophile friend Elizabeth will get one for her beautiful garden in Cornwall? Or maybe Floss, another art lover will plant one in her French garden…