In 2020, Lambert Wilson plays Charles de Gaulle in “De Gaulle” by Gabriel Le Bomin, a historical and biopic film that takes the side of showing the man rather than the myth, the lover and father of a family before the man of State. And to this end, it brilliantly and gently shows the relationship between Charles and his daughter with Down syndrome Anne.
De Gaulle the human before the statesman
The history of France in the 20th century is inseparable from the great figure of General de Gaulle. It may seem strange that it has been so little represented and explored in cinema, but it would be very complex to reduce it to one of its different dimensions. Military, resistant, first president of the Fifth Republic, and writer, Charles de Gaulle exists above all in the permanent association of these identities, which make him the exemplary model of a French statesman.
But recounting the statesman is not the objective of Gabriel Le Bomin and Lambert Wilson, the director and main actor of DeGaullewho undertake in this biopic and historical film released in March 2020 to show General de Gaulle in its most intimate dimension: that of Yvonne’s lover (Isabelle Carré), the father of a family, the man full of doubts and weaknesses, in the period preceding his entry into resistance and the famous appeal of June 18, 1940 (our review here, our interview of the actors there).
And without voyeurism, without indiscretion, with great modesty, DeGaulle gives an important place to the relationship that Charles de Gaulle had with his daughter with Down syndrome, Anne.
When Yvonne and Charles de Gaulle refused the separation
The authors of the film could have overlooked this subject. But on the contrary, they made the decision to explore the personality of their main character through the prism of his relationship with Anne, born in January 1928 and who died in February 1948 in Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises.
Suffering from trisomy 21 – a chromosomal anomaly at the time still unknown -, we see in one of the flashbacks of DeGaulle that his parents immediately refused placement in a center to live with the family, with the two other children, Philippe and Elisabeth.
A bold decision at a time, when this disease was silent, badly perceived, concealed, and shameful. Like a red thread, DeGaulle thus shows the love and purity of the relationship between father and daughter. Those close to Charles de Gaulle and members of his family have always said that he, sober and restrained in his relationships, showed himself to be the opposite gender and outgoing with Anne, which the film’s flashbacks also suggest.
Difficulties but “exceptional moments of truth”
In the film, we see Anne at three different ages, between 6 months and twelve years old. To interpret it at twelve years old, it is with the young Clémence Hittin that the film team worked. Shortly before the film’s release, Isabelle Carré told us about the particularity of this collaboration and the difficulties encountered during filming.
To work with Clémence, you had to adapt all the time, because she didn’t learn the text and couldn’t easily stay in the same place. Sometimes she wanted, then she didn’t want anymore, so she had to improvise. She knew she had a scene of revolt, where she had to say “no, no, no”. Her mother had told her the story, and she remembered this scene, the others much less. So she still wanted to play that scene. So, we always started by replaying it, then we managed to make her change her mind and take her to another scene.
For children with Down syndrome, the notion of time is complicated, as is the notion of lying. If she throws herself into Lambert’s arms, it’s really that she throws herself there, with genuine affection. It’s complicated to organize on set, but it gives exceptional moments of truth.
The cover of a famous cliché
Forced to compose with this part of non-acting, the actors and the director manage to sublimate this constraint and thus deliver an authenticity that is the flesh of the incarnation of Lambert Wilson. Another flashback of the film also shows in a sequence the taking of a famous photograph (at the top of the article).
A photograph on which the film takes liberty since it imagines that it is Yvonne who takes it, while its author is unknown. A step aside in fiction but which serves the project of the film, that of showing the unfailing love which united the de Gaulle family.
DeGaulle ends when Yvonne and the de Gaulle children finally reach London on June 19, 1940. In February 1948, Anne dies and her parents found the Anne-de-Gaulle Foundation, which intended to accommodate young women with mental disabilities. According to the diplomat and writer Pierre de Boisdeffre, author of De Gaulle in spite of himself when Anne died, Charles de Gaulle would have grabbed his wife’s arm and whispered: “Now she’s like the others.”
Died on November 9, 1970, Charles de Gaulle is buried alongside his daughter in Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises.