Grading: Peter Bernaers
Producer: Tondo Films
Director: Jan Bultheel
In Russia, boredom and vodka sap the troops’ morale. The armored vehicle is named “Cafard”: as indestructible as a cockroach but also a symbol of nostalgia and melancholy. Jean’s only twinkle of hope is Jelena, a Russian nurse. But she cannot prevent his downward moral spiral. At the end of a disastrous military operation, Jean finally takes his revenge by cowardly shooting a German soldier in the back.
But revenge is bitter. Jean’s romantic 19th century vision falls apart. When Bolshevik revolution breaks out in October 1917, there is random killing, raping and pillaging. Confronted with so much social injustice, the young Guido is drawn to communism. On his initiative, Jean Mordant – the world champion – makes a deal with the Bolsheviks and the armored vehicles are traded for a train heading East.
In the wild landscapes of Siberia, Mongolia and China, Jean comes to terms with himself. Victor is attacked by a bear and when they arrive in Vladivostok, his arm has to be amputated. Physically destroyed and eaten away by remorse, Victor commits suicide.
The Brave Little Belgians receive a cynical triumphant welcome in the pro-war United States. But four years of deprivation and hardship have left their mark. The budding romance between Jean and Jelena is abruptly stopped when at last Jean receives catastrophic news about Mimi. Spanish flu in Europe has taken her too. Jean collapses.
Jelena offers him to start a new life with her, but Jean heads back to the old world where he finally embraces a little boy he has never seen before: his grandson, fruit of his initial shame. A new man in a new era