In a slight departure from the network's usual movie of the week, Suite Française will air on Lifetime on Monday, Oct. 10. While most of the network's movies focus on current issues and events, Suite Française is a historical drama set during World War II, inspired by Irene Nemirovsky's critically acclaimed book of the same name. Although Oct. 10 marks its United States debut, the film was released in the United Kingdom last year. Lifetime has an eye for airing films that are ripped from the headlines, so is Suite Francaise a true story? The book it's based on has its own fascinating backstory — but, before we get to that, let's take a look at the synopsis from the network's website:
In Nazi-occupied France, Lucille Angellier (Michelle Williams) waits for news of her husband, along with her domineering mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas). When a regiment of German soldiers arrive in the town, they soon move into the villagers' homes. Lucille tries to ignore Bruno (Matthias Schoenaerts), the German commander who has been posted at her house, but she soon falls in love with him.
The synopsis does not indicate that the film itself is based on a true story, and the novel is fictional — so the movie falls into the historical fiction category. However, if you enjoy watching Suite Française, I'd highly recommend picking up Nemirovsky's book — it's beautifully written and the story behind it is even more compelling than what lies in its pages.
Although it was written during the World War II era, Suite Française was not published until 2004 and the reason is heartbreaking — in 1942, Némirovsky was arrested as "a stateless person of Jewish descent" and imprisoned in Auschwitz where she died later that year, as reported by The New York Times. Years later, her daughters rescued Némirovsky's notebooks and discovered two novellas — Storm in June and Dolce. They were published together under the title Suite Française and the movie is based on the latter.
The same New York Times article notes that Némirovsky's oldest daughter, who lost both her parents in the Holocaust, was in possession of the notebook containing Suite Française for decades before she opened it. She believed that it was her mother's journal and feared it would be too painful to read. In the 1990s, she bravely opened the notebooks and realized they held Némirovsky's brilliant novellas. Although only two complete novellas were in the notebooks, Némirovsky had planned on writing a novel in five parts — she planned on following Storm in June and Dolce with pieces tentatively titled Captivity, Battles?, and Peace?
Tragically, Némirovsky's own captivity prevented her from completing the book she envisioned. Still, her memory continues to stay alive thanks to her work — in 2007, The New York Times reported that another Némirovsky novel, Fire in the Blood, had been unearthed and it, too, has been posthumously published.
Based on reviews from Suite Française's UK release, this is one movie you won't want to miss. And, although the plot on the screen is fictional, it's important to remember the tragic true story of Némirovsky, the brilliant author and woman who lost her life along with millions of other Jews during World War II.
Images: Entertainment One (2)