Towards the Battle (2019) - full transcript

The story unfolds around the year 1860. Louis, a photographer, convinces the general of the French Army to send him to Mexico to photograph the colonial war that is ravaging the country. ...

Help! Come quick!


Maurice, he's bleeding!


MEXICO, 1863


I haven't received your letters
since Mexico City.

They may be my only comfort
in this harsh climate.

The hail has given way to grey,
colder days and rain.

But I won't give up.

My objective remains to find
the war that has evaded me thus far.

My work will be a great step forward.

People will have never seen
a battle like this.

General Trochu assured me I'd find

the 2nd Regiment if I headed south.

Three weeks later, I'm still looking.

Apart from a few soldiers
as lost as I am,

I haven't met a living soul.

Three days ago, I cut west

into rebel territory.

The Mexicans are everywhere.

You'd laugh if you saw
how I protect myself.

A pathetic scarecrow
made of straw and rags.

My love,

I must tell you about a young soldier
I saw near Mexico City.

His adolescent features
were just the same

as our dear Lazare."

Don't move!

Hands up!

Hands up!


What do you want?

Why are you following me?

Why are you following me?

Sit down there.

I'm watching you.

I'm watching you.

Thank you, Lord,
for giving us this food.


You praying?

You praying?


To give thanks for the food.

To God.



France. Paris.

What's Paris?

One move
and I'll blow your head off.



Help! Give me a hand!

I have money!
I'll give you money!


Come back!

Go on, pull!

Pull me up.

My equipment.

We have to go now.
It's dangerous.

That's the war. Take this.

Sir, we have to leave.

We must go. It's dangerous!

We have to go!

Shut up!

I saved your life,

I should've left you to die
in that rathole!

I should've left you!




I continue now
after not writing for a few days.

I am hungry and tired

and the war still evades me.

My work so far amounts to nought.

I don't know if it is beyond me,

or I've just been unlucky.

I met a Mexican peasant
who helped me get my strength back,

before continuing on his way
in this vast and bewildering land.

It all looks the same,

yet nothing is identical."

Who's there?

Take that!

Dirty dog!



Why have you arrested this man?

For spying.

We found him
snooping around our lines.

He doesn't look like a spy.

Are you an expert?
Show me your papers.

I have a safe-conduct
from General Trochu.

That's enough!

All right?

What are you doing?

General Trochu has allowed me

to employ a native as my guide.

Until I am assigned one officially.

I have orders from my superiors.

Isn't General Trochu your superior?

Come on, lads!

What is this thing?

It's a camera.
A camera.



What are you doing?

No, it's not...

Weapon, no.

But there's no light.

The image.
Broken, look.

It's all broken.

I don't make war, like the army.
Weapon, no.

What are you up to?

Leave it.

Are you mad? Stop screaming!

Isn't knocking me out enough?

You're on my hand!


Get off me.

What are you doing here?

I'm a photographer.

A photographer?

I take pictures of combat.

This isn't exactly a combat zone.

I can see that, thank you.

-And you?

I'm escaping.

-So far, the war's escaped me.
-Lucky you.

If you say so.

You don't know what war is.

Where are you headed?

I'm to meet
the 2nd Monterrey Regiment.

They're south of here.

We came from there.

That's war, my friend.
Troops move.

You'll have to keep up
to take photographs.

Which way is it?

It's dangerous.
I'm not going.

I have a safe-conduct.


Stop here.

We'll camp up there tonight.

The outpost is half a day's walk.

Tomorrow, we cross a jungle.

We'll camp up there.

-A jungle?

Any dangerous creatures?

Apart from your Mexican, you mean?

Let's go.

What did you do before the war?

I had businesses in Paris.

But for five years now,
I've been taking photographs

for major newspapers.

You left France to die here?

That's right.

Let me guess.

A nice house with a big garden,

smiling children running around

and a pretty wife...

Something like that.

It's crazy though.

The men fighting here

can only dream of having
what you have.

Yet you leave all that behind
to come here.

I have my reasons.

A woman?

No, not a woman.

What's your name?

You speak Spanish?


My name's Pinto.

I'm Luc.

-And you?

Luis? Your name is Luis?

Yes, Luis.

You didn't know each other?

How come you speak Spanish?

I arrived at the start of the war,
the very first day.

Before that,
I was with a regiment in California.

That's why I speak a little Spanish.


Then you're a gold hunter.

This is real gold.

I've never seen a camera like that.
It's huge.

You could take my photograph.

At night?

Why not?

The light.

There's no light.

Photography requires light.

What is it?

He won't take my photograph.

What's a photograph?

A photograph!
That box he's holding.

You put a plate inside the box

and a picture of you appears on it.

-A picture of me?

Good God!
You're both crazy.


-What is it?
-Dutch gin.

I prefer Scotch whisky,
but I'll try it.

We don't have that in stock.

Give it here.

Thank you.

Where did you come from?

From over that way.


And is your family there?


My family is that way.

Near a town called Zacatecas.

I just buried my mother.

What's he saying?

I asked him where he's been
and about his family.


He just buried his mother
in Guadala...

Or someplace.

Did she die in the war?

Did your mother die in the war?


God took her.

No, I got that. God took her.


For your mother.

-Leave some for us.

"Genever gin".

-"Genever gin".

"Genever again"!




The gold hunter.
He stole your horse.


My safe-conduct.

Come on. Let's go.

Luis, follow me.

You can do it!

Pinto, let's turn back!

Let's see my girls.

Divine, ladies!

Generous and welcoming.

How are our gentlemen guests?

Are my girls looking after you?

Do you need anything?

I need another drink.


Are you feeling better?

-You feel better?


Your clothes are over there.

I have to go, I'm sorry.


Come on.

Don't you want to have some fun?

That's very kind but duty calls.


That's enough, thank you.

Thank you?

You pay for the bath.

My bath?
You call that a bath?

You must pay.

I can't, I was robbed.

How about a photograph plate?


I don't care if you were robbed,
you pay.

And your friend owes money too.


A photographer!

A photographer!

You can take a photograph
of me and the girls here.

That's not possible.

It's not possible.

How about you make it possible?

More light!

Now stay still!

Stay still!


You must be still.

What are you doing with a Mexican?

Let's go!

Go on, move it!


You can't do this to him.

He's my assistant.

This is a prohibited area.

You've no business here.

Someone stole all my equipment
and my safe-conduct.

Fate conspired against me.

-You're an outlaw.

Not so easy without a safe-conduct.

You know it was signed
by General Trochu.

That Mexican is my assistant.

Very well.

Tell the general yourself.

I had an officer's uniform.

Where shall I leave
this Mexican uniform?

Which one is General Trochu's tent?

I need to speak to him.

He's been informed.

If I were you, I'd stay close
to your Mexican donkey there.

If anything happens,
you'll be held responsible.

Bon app├ętit.

-So you got lost?
-Hello, General.

At last.
I've been wandering for weeks.

My map was outdated.

Really? We made that map.

But you're a photographer,
not a geographer.

Due to my poor navigation
and bad weather,

I never found the regiment.

You're joking?

You wandered about

for a month without protection?

That explains the Mexican.

He saved my life.

You were lucky.
What about your photographs?

I was hoping to see
the reality of war, the blood,

the smell of flesh and canons,
like you said.

I told you,

war moves fast,
you have to adapt.

It's a good thing I invited Sullivan.

He was only meant to assist you,
but in the end,

his work will allow me
to justify what I paid you.

You're going to use his photographs?

Why not?

Feeding the public pictures
of soldiers pretending to be dead?

Do you know what that's called?


I can see you're frustrated,

jealous even, because you failed.

I can photograph this war!

So far, you've failed, badly!

Sullivan is worse.

He's photographing a staged war.

You know nothing of war.

What's left of history
if we fake the proof?

Theory, Louis.
Don't preach at me.

I fell for your arrogance.

I trusted you.

You betrayed me.
Now listen.

Sullivan costs me nothing,
whereas the army pays you.

I won't do it.

I won't play with death.

I've heard enough.
I'm making you Sullivan's assistant.

You follow his orders.
What are you doing?

I'm going to continue
my work without you.

I'll return the rest in Paris.

No, you listen to me.

Tomorrow, we attack in the north.

You and your Mexican
will be given rifles.

You will join us
defending our country.

-You heard me.

I warned you, Louis.

You didn't come here for a party.

You've taken no photographs.
You're useless.

You'll be right at the front

with the cannon fodder.

You'll see what war looks like!

Pinto, come here.

Take this. Here.

Sullivan's boots and coat.



We have to go.



They're dying!

This is what war does to men!

Take a picture!

Beautiful, isn't it?

That's Paris, in France.
Far away, beyond the ocean.

And this is...

My neighbourhood.



My wife.

She's in Paris.

-Your wife?

Waiting for me.

And this is my son.

That's your son?

My son, yes.


I also have a son.

Augusto. He's still a baby.


I hope he'll grow up
to be like you.

An adventurer like you.

What about your son?
Does he work like you?

What does he do?

Show me.

How does it work?

He never achieved his dream.

He died five years ago, in Crimea.

In the war.

How does it work?

Work? How?

He was killed at Sevastopol.

By a mortar blast.

He was a captain.
Exemplary record.

We miss him a lot.

"Miss him a lot?"

This is "miss him a lot"?


It's a gift.
My wife made it.

Take it. For your wife Camille.

And for your son Lazare.

It's a souvenir of our friendship.

The plate.

The plate, yes.

The camera.

"Miss him a lot"?

No, the camera.

And the plate.

To help make the image,

we wet the plate with collodion.

Slowly like this.

For the image.

The camera.

No, come and see.

The camera.

The focussing screen.

The eye.

Of the camera.



Come closer.

Look in there to see the image.


To focus,
you push gently or pull back.


So, to take a picture,

remove the focussing screen,

and slide the plate in.

And then,

the eye.

Slide the frame down.

That's right.

And now...


Careful with the light.


You have to be gentle.

It's the plate. Remember?

Oh, yes, the plate.


Watch out for dust.

You need to be very careful.

-Beautiful, isn't it?
-Outside, yes.


Your face is appearing.



I feel I haven't written for ages.

I realise now what drew me here.

I wanted to photograph men,

not the war.

I needed to remember

these young soldiers

and see their faces,
battered and torn.

Coming here has made me realise that.

It is death that I seek,

not life."


-Where did you find that?
-What do you mean?

The coat and the box.

Over there, behind that hill.

There was a battle.

Did you see a man wearing it?

We saw no man.
What are you doing?

-That's not yours.
-It is now.

If you want to die, go ahead!



Isn't he the assistant?

But he's still a Mexican.

Yes, a Mexican assistant.

You messed up again!

I'll give you my boots
if you say you did it.

No way.

I'd rather face tuberculosis
than a firing squad. Help me!

We could just finish him off
to save trouble.

I'm not in trouble.

Move it!

Will my arm be alright?

I think so.
The bullet only grazed it.

At ease.

We found the pictures
that you told us about.

-Where did you find them?
-With the Frenchman's things.

You call this war?
Horses and flowers?

The photographer?

He must have fled.

The French have no courage.

Now I have a job for you.

Photograph us taking the capital.

I'm going north.

Don't worry, we'll pay you.

And you'll be safe with us.

We collected up the equipment
we found next to his horse.

We left it next to your horse.

We'll use his fine animal
to carry our wounded.

Go take your things
before someone else does.

Do you like them?

They're not yours.
Where did you find them?

What's left on a battlefield
belongs to nobody.

They were the photographer's.

Then he must have fled barefoot.

Here's to victory

and the Mexican people!

You'll go down in history for this.

I'm going to my family.
We're on different paths.

Death is a choice.

I refuse to kill.

It's not so simple.

The god of justice will weigh up

what we did to them

and what the French did to us.

Do these men you're training

know what awaits them?

It's your decision.

Get obliterated like the French,
if you want.

Or join us.

I'm looking for brave men,
not cry-babies.


Translation: Daniel Murray
Subtitles: The Subtitlers