LES TRAVAILLEURS DE LA MER
Sog.: from the eponimous novel (1866) by Victor Hugo. Scen.: André Antoine. F.: René Guychard, Paul Castanet. Ass. regia: Georges Denola, Julien Duvivier. Int.: Romuald Joubé (Gilliatt), Philippe Garnier (le révérend), Armand Tallier (Ebenezer), Marc Gérard (Clubin), Charles Mosnier (Mess Lethierry), Clément Liezer (Rantaine), Max Florr (Tangrouille), Joe Hard (Inbrancam). Prod.: Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et Gens de lettres. DCP.
Les Travailleurs de la mer, Victor Hugo’s novel written during his exile on the Channel Island of Guernsey in 1866, had never yet been brought to the screen when André Antoine presented this adaptation to the Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et Gens de Lettres (SCAGL) in 1917. Fleeing Paris during the war, he took advantage of his exile in Brittany to transpose the story to Camaret- sur-mer, where he had bought a house in 1902, rather than Guernsey. Filming began at the end of July and ended in September, and enlisted many locals who added to the picturesque nature of the film. Several tourist spots on the Crozon peninsula are also recognisable. The lead role of the sailor Gilliatt is played by Romuald Joubé, Antoine’s favourite actor, whom the Ministry for War permitted to take leave for the filming. Gilliatt braves all manner of obstacles to save the engine of La Durande, a boat belonging to Mess Lethierry that has been sabotaged by jealous sailors. As a reward, Lethierry offers him the hand of his niece Déruchette, with whom Gilliatt is secretly in love. The first chapter in the regionalist vein pursued by Antoine with La Terre in 1919, set in Beauce, and with L’Arlésienne set in the Camargue in 1922, Les Travailleurs de la mer was very well received. Gustave Simon, descendent of Hugo, even congratulated the director for having succeeded in bringing the energy and atmosphere of the novel to the screen. “It’s a great lesson in art”, he pronounced. In 2020, with support from the CNC, the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé and the Cinémathèque française, restored the film from one sole tinted-andtoned Dutch nitrate copy, kept at the Cinémathèque. The intertitles have been reconstructed following the model of the original Dutch frames, and using André Antoine’s script material preserved at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The color grading of the film was carried out on the basis of the original Dutch reference copy in order to restore the original tints and tones.