The Return of Martin Guerre

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The Return of Martin Guerre
File:Le retour de Martin Guerre.jpg
Directed by Daniel Vigne
Produced by Daniel Vigne
Written by fr (Daniel Vigne)
Jean-Claude Carrière
Natalie Zemon Davis
Starring Gérard Depardieu
Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu
Nathalie Baye
Roger Planchon
Dominique Pinon
Music by Michel Portal
Cinematography Andre Neau
Edited by Denise de Casabianca
Distributed by European International
Release dates
14 May 1982
Running time
122 min
Country France
Language French

The Return of Martin Guerre (Le Retour de Martin Guerre) is a 1982 French film directed by fr (Daniel Vigne). It was based on a famous case of imposture in 16th century France, involving Martin Guerre.


The film relates a historical case of alleged identity theft. Martin Guerre leaves his young wife in a small French village to go fight in a war, and to travel. Eight or nine years later, Martin (played by Depardieu) returns to resume his life. The man is initially acknowledged and welcomed by the wife, family, and friends because he knows the intimate details of his former life.

As time passes, however, vagabonds identify Martin as Arnaud of the neighbouring village of Tilh, but the villagers dismiss these claims as lies. But when Martin makes a demand for money he's owed by his uncle, the uncle is outraged and attacks Martin. This leads to a trial on his identity, with his life at stake, since if he is not Martin he and Martin's wife Bertrande are adulterers and their children bastards in a time when this is a mortal sin. This trial comprises most of the film.

Martin argues well, and the villagers are divided on whether the man is in fact Martin, Bertrande siding with him. After several elevations of the proceedings up to a court in Parliament, the judge, Jean de Loras, prepares to acquit Martin primarily on the strength of the testimony of Bertrande.

At the last minute, another witness appears in court, bearing an even stronger resemblance to the young Martin and casting everything into doubt once more. The impostor confesses that he was a soldier with the real Martin, who said he was never going back to his village, upon which the impostor decided to take his place. Even Bertrande changes her mind and says the new witness is Martin. Arnaud is sentenced to death.

Some time later, De Loras visits the village to tell Bertrande that she has been acquitted and is innocent of conspiracy with Arnaud. But he has deduced that she recognized the impostor from the very beginning and asks her why she claimed he was Martin. She says that he was a better husband and man, and they had a good life together. De Loras asks her then why she changed her mind at the last minute. She says she saw in Arnaud's eyes that the case had become hopeless and that he wanted her to feign ignorance so as to live for herself and her children.

Arnaud is led to the gallows, repenting all the while. A voiceover closes the historical framework by mentioning that de Loras was executed some years later for his Protestant beliefs.


In 1983, a book of the same name was published by Natalie Zemon Davis, an American historian of early modern France and professor at Princeton University. She had served as a consultant and helped write the screenplay for the film.

Remake and musical

Sommersby is a 1993 Hollywood remake of the film in English, transposed to the American Civil War and starring Richard Gere and Jodie Foster.

A West End (London) musical produced by Cameron Mackintosh, Martin Guerre, was loosely based on the film with additional material from historical accounts. Again, the historical setting is transposed, in this case to the period of religious turmoil between the Huguenots and the Catholics in sixteenth century France.

The first feature film from Timor Leste, "A Guerra Da Beatriz" ("Beatriz's War") was released in 2013. It is a re-telling of the story of Martin Guerre, but set in the 1980s, during the Indonesian occupation of Timor Leste. It stars Irim Tolentino, who co-wrote the script with the director, Bety Reis. [1]

Cast and roles


See also


External links