Germinal (1993) DVD Color Shown in the original widescreen format. In French with optional English subtitles. (Region 1 - Playable in North America - The US, Canada, Mexico, etc.) Approx. 152 min.
Starring: Miou-Miou, Renaud, Jean Carmet, Judith Henry, Jean-Roger Milo and Gérard Depardieu. Written by Claude Berri and Arlette Langmann, based on “Germinal” by Émile Zola. Directed by Claude Berri.
Claude Berri's angry, ambitious epic, based on the 19th-century novel by Emile Zola, re-creates, as does the novel, the gut-wrenching poverty and the intense day-by-day struggles of striking French coal-miners in 1884 at the Voreux mines of France. The film centers upon the bitter toils of Maheu (Gerard Depardieu) and his family -- consisting of his iron-willed wife (Miou-Miou) and their daughter Catherine (Judith Henry), who also works in the mines. When a new miner, Etienne Lantier (Renaud), comes to Voreux to seek work, he is befriended by Maheu, who takes him on his mining crew and allows him to stay at his home. Etienne is also an organizer for a new miner's union and, as conditions in the Voreux mines worsen, Etienne convinces Maheu to organize a miner's strike. Meanwhile, Etienne is attracted to Catherine, and Catherine to him, but she doesn't act upon her feelings, taking up, instead, with Chaval (Jean-Roger Milo), a local ne'er do well. As conditions in the mines become more desperate and unsafe, and the owners propose to cut wages, Maheu at last stages a massive strike of the miners. When that happens, the owners send in armed soldiers to defend the mines.
They do backbreaking work to earn their living and expect their children to do the same; indeed, the mother frankly states that one reason for having children is so that they can work and bring more money to the family.
The wages in the local pits seem carefully calculated down to the last franc, to support life and the ability to work while not providing one franc more. The miners are unable ever to gather enough capital to leave the district, or to make a different choice of work. They are trapped between servitude and starvation.
Germinal is based on the 1885 novel by Émile Zola. At the time of its making it was the most expensive movie ever produced in France. It was the fourth most attended film of the year in France.
Germinal won the César Award for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design, and was nominated for Best Film, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best director, Best Writing, Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Music and Best Production Design. The film was selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards.
The film, set in the nineteenth century, closely follows the plot of the novel, which is a realistic story of a coal miners' strike in northern France in the 1860s.
Customer review: “The pacing of this film was very well done. Not a scene didn't feel like it didn't belong. The production and the recreation of the era was very convincing, much credit to the director who got this right when it's so easy to get it wrong. The acting was excellent, Depardieu as always fantastic, he was convincing as a hard-working simple man finally at breaking point.”