Released on DVD in a newly restored print, following its theatrical release by the BFI earlier this year, Jean-Pierre Melville's gripping adaptation of Joseph Kessel's seminal wartime novel has been praised as one of the greatest and the most authentic film portrayals of the French Résistance. A personal project for over 25 years and drawing on his own experience of fighting for the Résistance, the film shares the existential themes of his gangster epics Le Samouraï and Le Cercle rouge and shows Melville's mastery of suspense.
Set between the Autumn of 1942 and February 1943, the film follows the story of a band of Résistance fighters living under German-controlled France. As the war continues, the grip of the occupying force tightens and friendships, trust and loyalty give way to secrecy, suspicion and loss.
A tribute to the heroic activities of the everyday members of the Résistance, L'Armée des Ombres is a tense, atmospheric tour de force featuring powerful performances from Simone Signoret, Lino Ventura and Jean-Pierre Cassel, and a striking cameo from Serge Reggiani.
Commentary by Professor Ginette Vincendeau, author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris (BFI)
Le Journal de la Résistance (1945, 33 mins, b&w) - a rare documentary from the archive of the Imperial War Museum with English commentary by Noel Coward
Rarely seen short film about Jean-Pierre Melville from 1968, with footage of him directing on set (4 mins, colour)
Illustrated booklet including essay by Jean-Michel Frodon and a review of the film on its original release by Jean-Louis Comolli, both from Cahiers du cinéma magazine