The story behind the publishing of Irène Némirovsky’s “Suite Française” is an interesting one. When World War II first started, Némirovsky was a successful writer living in Paris, but by the time 1942 rolled around, she was a prisoner being held in Auschwitz, the prison camp where she eventually died. Somewhere during this period she managed to write the entirety of “Suite Française,” however, in microscopic handwriting, in a single notebook. Believing it to be a personal journal, Némirovsky’s daughter kept it until the late ’90s without ever reading it. Then, after thumbing through the pages and realizing that she had one of the first literary works about World War II ever written, she decided to have her mother’s book published, and it wasn’t long before it became a bestseller.
The book’s Amazon description describes its plot by saying, “Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. ‘Suite Française’ tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy – in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.”
So, what does this have to do with movies? Well, it turns out The Duchess director Saul Dibb is adapting the story for his next feature, and, according to Variety, he’s got Michelle Williams in talks to play a key role. If talks with Williams go well, she’ll be playing Lucille Angellier, a woman living with her domineering mother-in-law in occupied France who gets in a romantic entanglement. You see, Angellier’s marriage is a loveless one, and her husband is away fighting in the war, so when a former composer turned German military officer ends up staying in her home, and the two bond over the piano, it’s not long before love is in the air. Angellier is then torn between her new love and loyalty to her country.
A story that humanizes the Nazis, as told by one of their victims, sounds like too interesting a proposition to pass up, and this role of the conflicted woman sounds like exactly the sort of thing that Williams thrives on doing, so Suite Française should be one to keep your eye on.