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Film / Monsieur Vincent

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Monsieur Vincent is a 1947 film from France, directed by Maurice Cloche.

It is a biopic of the life of Vincent de Paul, a Real Life 17th century priest who became famous for his service of the poor, so famous that in 1737 he was made a saint by the Catholic Church. The film follows de Paul through 43 years, from 1617 to 1660. He starts out an obscure parish priest in Chatillon-les-Dombes and rises to fame, giving counsel to princes and ministers, while all the time being focused on the singular goal of ameliorating the desperate poverty of Renaissance France.

Pierre Fresnay stars as Vincent de Paul. This was a comeback role for Fresnay, who was in trouble with the post-war French government for a while due to his activity in the film industry during the Nazi occupation.


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  • Abandoned Area: Chatillon is peculiarly still and empty when Vincent arrives. It turns out that the people have shut themselves up in their houses for fear of plague.
  • The Black Death: The people of Chatillon think that a local woman has fallen ill of the plague, which is why they've shut her up in her house, and intend to burn the house, despite the fact that the woman's daughter is still inside. Vincent shames the villagers when he insists on entering the woman's house, only to find that while she is dead, it wasn't of plague at all.
  • Biopic: 43 years in the career of a Catholic saint.
  • Blatant Lies: The cardinal who dismisses Vincent's plea for wood, saying "I don't have any wood either!", while standing in front of a pile of firewood.
  • Cobweb of Disuse: The parish church in Chatillon has a lot of these. There hasn't been a priest there in years. Vincent is appalled.
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  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Most prominent in the scene where the Ladies of Charity tell Vincent that he is asking for too much and they can't do any more. Vincent, who has had enough of their carping and criticism, puts the Doorstop Baby he just rescued on the table, and demands to know what they'll do about it. It turns out that the rich ladies will do nothing, as they are sickened and disgusted by the baby, regarding it as a product of sin, suggesting that the baby should die for that reason. Even the nuns have the same attitude, refusing to look Vincent in the face. An angry Vincent snarls that when God wanted someone to die for human sin, he sent his Son.
  • Distant Finale: A Time Passes Montage jumps us from 1647 to 1660 and the ending, with Vincent having succeeded in founding a network of charitable institutions, about to die, well aware that the work will continue.
  • Doorstop Baby: An example of this trope that is both realistic and horrifying. Vincent finds a baby frozen to death in a box outside the church. A legless beggar sitting next to the church door says unconcernedly that he listened to the baby cry for a couple of hours until it died. An appalled Vincent then takes the next baby away when the woman who was bringing it there gives it to him directly.
  • Gilligan Cut: Countess Gondi, who is not happy that Vincent has left his cushy job as her priest and counselor, wonders where he's gone to, saying "In what kind of hole, with what kind of savages?" Cut to Vincent in Chatillon pulling a wagon full of food for the poor.
  • Good Shepherd: Vincent de Paul, who devotes his whole life to being a tireless advocate for the poor people of France.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Many. Queen Anne pops up near the end of the movie to pay her respects to Vincent.
  • Idle Rich: Most of the French aristocracy is. Vincent struggles to overcome their apathy and class prejudice.
  • It's All About Me: A lot of the rich ladies in Vincent's Daughters of Charity feel this way. They get annoyed when another rich lady donates more than they did, to which a nonplussed Vincent responds that the more, the better. One lady says the poor aren't grateful enough. Another says "It's not just about the poor, it's about us too."
  • Jump Cut: Vincent's horror and shock when he watches the galley slaves being whipped is emphasized by a jump cut from a medium shot of Vincent to a closer shot.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Cardinal Richelieu is shown ostentatiously cuddling two kittens. While not overtly evil in this movie he is a political schemer, and he takes advantage of Vincent's reputation by appointing him chapain to the king's galleys.
  • Slave Galley: Still in use in 17th century France, complete with slave drivers banging a drum and whipping the men on the oars. Vincent is so horrified by what he sees that he takes the place of a galley slave at an oar.
  • A Taste of the Lash: How the French navy motivates the prisoners rowing its Slave Galleys.
  • Wealthy Philanthropist: Many of Vincent's backers, most notably the Ladies of Charity. The film makes perfectly clear that many of them support Vincent less from a sincere desire to help the poor, and more because they have nothing else to do. When his agitation becomes inconvenient or rubs up against their prejudices, they have little problem cutting him off.
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