The latest incarnation of “War of the Buttons” is likely to find favor with Jewish audiences, even though its execution fails to live up to its ambitions.
A placard at the beginning suggests the film was “inspired” by real events, but it actually is based on Louis Pergaud’s classic 1912 anti-military novel, “La Guerre des boutons.” Over the years, the book has been made into five films, including one set in Ireland and another, in 1957 France.
The latest version, by director Yann Samuell, is set in 1944 Occupied France, where the children of two small villages, Longeverne and Velran, are involved in a feud that began when one infringed on the other’s territory to capture rabbits. By contemporary standards, their battles are harmless, employing words (calling someone a “limp penis” was apparently enough to get things going), wooden swords and slingshots. Captured boys have the buttons removed from their clothing before being sent on their way.
For the most part, the rural area has escaped the attention of the Nazis, though local ruffians dressed in clown-like outfits have taken over policing duties on their behalf. Tension arises when a new girl, Violette (Ilona Bachelier), comes to town. Ostensibly, she is from Brittany, and staying with her godmother, the haberdasher Simone (Laetitia Casta), for health reasons.