Return of Martin Guerre, The (1983): Daniel Vigne’s Oscar-Nominated Romantic Drama-Mystery, Starring Gerard Depardieu and Natalie Baye

Daniel Vigne’s romantic drama-mystery, The Return of Martin Guerre, starring Gerard Depardieu and Natalie Baye, was a big art-house hit in and outside France.

Set in France in the sixteenth century, during the Hundred Years’ War, the tale centers on a mysterious man (Depardieu) who claims to be Martin Guerre, a returning soldier after an absence of nine years.  His wife (Baye), who lived like a widow, is shocked and so is the son, whom he had never met.

On the one hand, he looks and sounds like her husband, and he also possesses knowledge of their past.  But the wife and the townspeople hold strong doubts about the validity of his identity, suspecting that he may be just an impostor.

For one thing, he is nicer, more polite, and more responsible than the cruder man who went to war.  In the end, with some evidence that the real Martin Guerre, was crippled in the war, the man is brought to trial and the truth is revealed, leading to a death sentence by the local magistrate.

Stay away from the 1993 American remake, “Sommersby,” which, among many faults, was miscast with Jodie Foster and particularly Richard Gere in the leads.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Costume design: Anne-Marie Marchand

Oscar Awards: None


Oscar Context:

The winner of the Costume Design Oscar was Mark Vos for Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander.’