Directed by William Dieterle
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 3
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Writing (Screenplay)
Emile Zola was a poor writer. A hard stickler for facts (and controversial ones at that), he is continually told by police and his employers to stop writing such controversial work, and to mind his business. He does the exact opposite, and he finally writes a best selling novel, Nana, after meeting a French prostitute. He continues to write expose pieces and makes quite a name for himself. But as he becomes older, and starts to think he can now relax and work at his leisure, one of the biggest scandals in France happens, and he gets drawn in. The Dreyfus affair takes place. Captain Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly accused of giving military secrets to the Germans. Dreyfus, continually insisting his innocence, is set to prison for life on Devil's Island. The army, however, arrested Dreyfus under very little evidence, and the rest presented is sketchy at best. After several years, Mrs Dreyfus approaches Zola to help her, as she has absolute proof that her husband is innocent. For Zola to get involved, he knows it would likely mean being arrested and tried for Libel, but it's a risk he's willing to take if it means an innocent man's freedom.
Admittedly, I had never heard of Emile Zola, or even the Dreyfus affair, though my husband was quick to explain that the Dreyfus affair was a very large scandal in France. And, after viewing this film, I can see why. While the film is entitled the Life of Emile Zola, it would more aptly be named along the lines of relating to the Dreyfus Affair, as this was the bulk of the story.
While the subject matter itself was interesting, the film itself did not get overly interesting until the last 45 minutes of the film or so, when we entered the trial, which was essentially the rest of the film. The trial, presently well and precisely, was interesting and the most well done part of the film.
The acting was well done in the film, and while the actor who portrayed Dreyfus had a relatively small-ish part, he was quite fantastic, and I definitely remembered his performance. A well deserved supporting actor win. As well, Paul Muni, who played Zola, was also really great as well, and was particularly awesome when laying the smack down and giving awesome speeches.
Overall, while the film could've been more interesting overall, the trial scenes were kind of interesting and were certainly the highlight of the film.
Emotional Connection- 7/10
Overall Enjoyment- 7/10
Overall Package- 7.5/10