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A French Village Podcast with Sarah Longwell and Ben Wittes
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A French Village Podcast with Sarah Longwell and Ben Wittes

Author: The Bulwark

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Sarah Longwell and Ben Wittes are watching “A French Village,” about the Nazi occupation of a small town in France. While the show first aired in France in 2009 (and ran through 2017), it's finding a new audience in the United States now that’s it been released on Amazon Prime.
If you love the show, you’ll love this podcast. If you don’t know the show, you’ll still love this podcast.
16 Episodes
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Love and resistance is in the air on this week's episode of A French Village Podcast. Sarah and Ben discuss S3 Eps 7 & 8.
Hortense has a moment of redemption… but did she earn it? Some of the scheming from these episodes seems a little too contrived. Some of the escapes seem improbably, too—but then again, so did the ones in real life. Is the show playing games with the numbers? Will it ever not be soul-crushing again? Please?
Sarah and Ben discuss how Nazis used child separation as a tool as they break down a difficult pair of episodes.
But seriously, how and why is Hortense alive? Sarah is confused; Ben is indignant. Warning: Season 3 has some nasty Holocaust stuff. The nature of Vichy changes as the deportations start. Class, status, and nationality distinctions deteriorate within the Jewish community (communities?). Servier is a stand-in for bureaucracy, and he gets much worse in these episodes. The printing press caper put the bourgeoning resistance in a difficult situation.
Sarah and Ben discuss the relationship drama of the last two episodes of Season 2. Plus, the future of the show.
Sarah is anti-fingers in the foie gras, but anti-anti-smoothing. Bad decisions are driving the plot. Getting cold doesn’t make you sick! Don’t torture where you eat. Big promotion for Marchetti. Kurt is back! Should Lucienne have gone to Switzerland with him? Beriot has his best episode so far. Mueller has a weird concept of respect.
An astute listener is stridently anti-Lucienne. Sarah and Ben are more circumspect. Beriot and Lecienne’s father have very different drinking styles. Marcel Larcher has a lucky day! The competition for grossest character heats up (or at least for second place). Sarah should have been more specific about her aspirations for Elise Stefanik. Daniel has to make some life-and-death decisions. Also, the Communists are in these episodes.
Sarah stans Lucienne, while she and Ben debate Sarah's (i.e. the character, not the host) affair. Beriot encourages. . . dancing! Hortense just gets worse. The prostitutes in the brothel are the most effective resistance. Ben tells true stories that resemble the show—plus the greatest obituary he's ever read: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/10/world/europe/robert-de-la-rochefoucauld-noted-for-war-exploits-dies-at-88.html
The Communists become cannon fodder for the Soviets. Ben and Sarah dive deep on collaborators, terrorists, and the resistance. Lucienne and Marie meet again. Sarah and Ben discuss the plausibility of Lucienne's abortion. Hortense is the worst. It's amazing how many people are from Algeria these days. There's a cake competition. Tucker Carlson has entered the chat.
Germany has invaded the Soviet Union, so the Communists have a new perspective. Suzanne's admission to Marcel is morally confusing. Schwartz, Heinrich, Larcher, and the deputy prefect have a nice dinner together. Then Schwartz does something kinda badass! We learn more about the Larchers. Sarah's citizenship is in question. All the 8-year-olds find out about Lucienne's bad decisions.
Lorrain and Natacha are no more, but Captain Carrot lives! Sarah gives more info to Heinrich than she means to. Mr. Schwartz is in trouble. Dr. Larcher shows some moral development maybe? Ben reflects on socialists vs. commies, Sarah reflects on who does the right thing and why.
The persecution of Jews begins in earnest. The spy ring intersects with the ring of Jewish refugees. Is Mr. Schwartz Jewish? Ben fives into the differences between the German Army, the SS, the SD, and the Gestapo. Sarah still can't pronounce De Kervern. Ben reveals his preferred method of torture. Lucienne and Beriot have more awkward encounters. Rings are not first-date appropriate!
This episode involves gambling, prostitution, and spy rings. Gustav, Ben’s favorite character, is adorable, but can’t keep a secret to save his life—or anyone else’s. The Larcher brothers’ class differences intensify. De Kervern uses some, shall we say, enhanced interrogation techniques before setting up his spy ring. How did he know how to do that, by the way? Kurt and Lucienne’s relationship is “verboten.” Heinrich is a Gestapo officer, a drug addict, and... an interesting guy? Lucienne has her “Me too” moment, figuratively and literally.
Collaboration is starting to take shape as the village's Jews weigh reporting themselves to the authorities. Meanwhile, the rest of the town goes to the movies, where someone boos a clip os Petain and Hitler shaking hands. Armistice Day is awkward when the Germans are in charge. Marcel gets sent off to a camp, but a German soldier saves his son. Sarah and Ben agree that the way Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz kiss is really gross.
Sarah and Ben talk about episodes 3 and 4, including who exactly counts as “French” in the French village, what happens to France after the German occupation, what the Communists are up to, and who that guy was who fell out of the sky was. The hosts also delve—as promised—into the nature of complicity, resistance, and what lessons we can apply to our current moment. Ben has some problems with Mr. Schwartz, but maybe it’s too soon to judge?
Sarah has watched the whole show. Ben has just started, so no spoilers! The hosts discuss what makes “A French Village” resonate so well with modern politics. Yes, it’s about Nazis. But it’s not about camps or the front lines. Instead, it’s about relatively normal, relatable people trying to come to grips with events they don’t entirely understand. It involves both cowardice and heroism, but maybe more importantly, a lot in between. There’s moral ambiguity — something that happens a lot in politics (especially lately) but that we don’t talk about enough. Sarah and Ben review the setting, the characters, and the events of the first two episodes. Sarah gives her literary analysis and criticism of the show, Ben provides some historical explanation and color. They agree that, at this pace, it’ll take about a year for Ben to make it through the entire series. À bientôt!
Comments (3)

Shari Lynn

Marie is my favorite character - she's smart, courageous, pragmatic.

Mar 26th
Reply

Pat Ketsche

Thanks for this podcast and for getting me started on the series. It is a great series and this podcast is really helpful to add context.

Mar 13th
Reply

Eliza Howarth

interesting discussion about the series. Sarah and Ben are a good team. Light thrown on the series very helpful!

Mar 9th
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