The Critics and the Plume

February 22, 2023

The film Vaincre ou Mourir [Conquer or Die] on the saga of the Vendée has unleashed the hatred of professional film critics, and aroused the enthusiasm of viewers. Should we be surprised? Fr. Alain Lorans, FSSPX, thinks not.

The critics’ pens have been furiously scribbling against Charette's plume. L'Obs scoffs: “Very little cinema, a lot of proselytizing noise and fury, all sprinkled with a heavy-handed Christian message”; Le Monde is ironic about these “soft battles between extras disguised as Vendée peasants”; Télérama sneers: “If the Vendée wars were shown to me with Chouan glasses and big clogs… I would run away at a gallop!”

Like his comrades in arms, more than 200 years ago, Charette proudly reminds the Vaincre ou Mourir viewers: “Our homeland is our villages, our altars, our tombs, everything that our fathers loved before us. Our Homeland is our Faith, our land, our King.”

“But their Homeland, what is it? Do you understand it, do you? They want to destroy customs, order, tradition... So what is this mocking Homeland of the past, without fidelity, without love? This Homeland of nonsense and irreligion? Nice speech, isn't it? For them, the Homeland seems to be only an idea; for us, it is a land.”

Liberation retorts, as if, after more than two centuries, it still feels targeted: “The most fascinating thing in a militant film that has transformed its characters into a pretext, becomes the preponderant place given to concepts, to these headless and abstract entities, visibly evil, against which Charette and his friends fight tirelessly.”

“They are called the republic or history.… Overturning history, a good definition of the reactionary enterprise.”

More radical and well within the spirit of the incendiary columns of Turreau, Ecran Large would like to see the film, its producers, and its directors, in hell: “At the sight of ‘Vaincre ou Mourir,’ one would almost hope that hell really did exist so as to see its proselytizing and reactionary leaders burn there with relish.”

Charette has already answered them: “It is as old as the devil, their world which they say is new and which they want to found in the absence of God… Old as the devil… We are told that we are the henchmen of old superstitions; that’s a laugh!”

“But in the face of these demons who are reborn from century to century, we are youth, gentlemen! We are the youth of God. The youth's fidelity! And this youth wants to preserve for himself and for his sons, human belief, the freedom of the inner man...”

It is this youth and its panache that are psychically unbearable for the post-1968'ers. But the critics bark, and the film is played in theaters, much to the satisfaction of the viewers.