Written and directed by and starring Albert Dupontel, See You Up There (Au revoir là-haut) is adapted from Pierre Lemaitre’s award-winning 2015 novel The Great Swindle.
The film opens with war-mad French army Lieutenant Pradelle (Laurent Lafitte) ordering a senseless assault on German forces just days before Armistice. During the carnage, soldier Edouard Péricourt (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) saves the life of his comrade Albert Maillard (Dupontel), but receives severe facial injuries in the process.
The first 20 minutes of the film are its best, shocking audiences with the reality of trench warfare. I was left almost gagging during one close-up shot, when Maillard is trapped underground and forced to suck the remaining air out of a freshly killed horse’s mouth. In the following hospital scene, Dupontel skilfully uses humour to quell the horrific image of Péricourt’s facial wound.
From there, the costumes become See You Up There’s main drawcard. Péricourt’s exquisitely ornamental facial masks are memorable, as are the costume changes. Dynamic camera angles and well-constructed sets add to the film’s visual quality.
Despite dealing with extremely dark themes – of manipulation, death, separation and corruption – the film is also upbeat. It’s this duality that makes See You Up There so appealing.
Péricourt and Maillard, who devise a con involving fake monuments honouring dead soldiers, are the film’s protagonists and they’re both inherently flawed. This left me conflicted, wanting to root for the war veterans but also condemning their scandalous life choices.
Dupontel balances humour and tragedy to great effect, leaving audiences engaged right up until the end, and See You Up There is highly recommended for anyone unafraid of gory medical images and violent warfare.
See You Up There (Au revoir là-haut) is screening at Palace Nova Eastend and Palace Nova Prospect on various dates from March 25 until April 15 as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival, which begins today. See session times here.