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Film / Beau Travail

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"He said he was a man without ideals,
a soldier without ambition.
l admired him without knowing why.
He knew l was a perfect Legionnaire,
and he didn't give a damn."
Galoup on his Commandant, Bruno

Beau Travail is a 1999 French film directed by Claire Denis and loosely based on the novel Billy Budd. The film centers on a master sergeant Galoup (played by Denis Lavant) and his memories of being stationed in Dijibouti with a group of Foreign French Legion soldiers. The soldiers train diligently in the harsh elements and Galoup forms an envious, perceived rivalry with one of the soldiers under his command - Gilles (played by Gregoire Colin).

The film is oft regarded by critics as one of the greatest films of all time and is no. 78 on the 2012 Sight and Sound Critic's Poll. [1]


Beau Travail provides examples of:

  • A Father to His Men: Mostly Bruno (Michel Subor) towards Galoup, but also to a lesser extent Galoup towards his men.
  • Beauty = Goodness: Galoup regards the beauty and precision of military exercises to be a mark of their quality as a soldier, which is what sparks his Envy in Gilles.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Galoup feels this in the "present day".
  • Driven by Envy: Galoup, and also possibly Gilles.
  • Gainax Ending: Galoup is lying in bed, looking forlorn and holding a gun. It's heavily implied that he's about to commit suicide... and then the end credits show him doing a freestyle dance number on a club floor.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Galoup, increasingly towards the end of the film.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Galoup's excuse for effectively sending Gilles to his death.
  • Large and in Charge: The Commandant Bruno.
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  • Misery Builds Character: All the soldiers to a varying degree believe this given their willingness to the harsh military exercises, until Galoup pushes it to far by ordering a man who went for a wee on duty to dig a hole in the rocky desert until his hands start bleeding.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Galoup in the "present day"., likely for being Court-Martialed and having sent Gilles to his death.
  • The Quiet One: Giles has an aspect of this in his character. It probably enforces Galoup's perception of strength in him and his subsequent Envy.
  • Rated M for Manly: This film breathes masculinity, and is perhaps the central theme.
  • Scenery Porn: The arid, salty landscape of Djibouti which is contrasted with mountain planes and the sea.
  • Training from Hell: Training in the harsh desert and being forced to endure the harsh sun. Although it must be said that all the soldiers take it on board, likely because they believe that Misery Builds Character.
  • Warrior Poet: Galoup, who sees military exercises almost as a form of ballet and who aspires poetic qualities to disciplined and strong soldiers.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Galoup vs. his men towards the end of the film.


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