A cutting crucible pic dealing in racism, colonialism, imperialism and that great leveler of them all, war. Film takes place in a remote corner of Africa during World War I when a handful of bored Frenchmen belatedly find they are at war with Germany and decide to attack the neighboring Germans in another European colony nearby.
Each has little military power, but they press natives into their armies who do the fighting and dying for no reason. Finally an English group moves in and tells them the war is over.
The film manages to avoid overdoing its satirical thrust and is a sort of moral fable or philosophical tale about man’s general inhumanity to man, especially those below them.
Director Jean-Jacques Annaud, coming from ad pic making, gives this a good local color, never forces the farcical aspects, and keeps the actors in line. He does not indulge in the technical hijinks usually revealed in first pix by ad makers who have to grab attention fast. Acting rightfully keeps itself flamboyant but rarely slops over into stereotype or hamming.
1976: Best Foreign Language Film