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Intimate Enemies

Intimate EnemiesOn November 1, 1954, after 130 years
  of French presence, the National
  Liberation Front (FLN) launched
  insurgency in Algeria. Faced with the
  FLN’s resolve to negotiate
  independence, France responded by
  sending in 500,000 young conscripts.
  In 1959, despite criticism, France
  stepped up military operations in Algeria.
  This is the setting for the tense and
  provocative drama Intimate Enemies
  (L
’Ennemi Intime), which is now
  available on DVD...”


IT IS 1959 IN KABYLIA, ALGERIA. After an apparent mistake by Lieutenant Constantin, a group of soldiers under his command ends up at the wrong place for a rendezvous and comes under machine gunfire from other French troops.

Constantin is killed by friendly fire and is replaced by the highly-principled Lieutenant Terrien (award-winning French Actor Benoît Magimel: The Piano Teacher), who believes he can lead the battalion of French soldiers into a civilised war that doesn't compromise his moral and humane ideals.

The cynical and battle-hardened Sergeant Dougnac (three-time César nominee Albert Dupontel: A Very Long Engagement) is among those who criticise his approach — and refuse to believe that he can maintain this stance when faced with the violence of the enemy.

Dougnac is a veteran of the Indo-China war who will stop at nothing — not even torture and barbarism — to track down and destroy the Fellaghas of Algeria's National Liberation Front and their leader, Slimane, an ex-World War Two sergeant in De Lattre's army.

Among the Algerians fighting with the French is Rachid (Abdelhafio Metalsi), who has family in Taïda — the village on the edge of the forbidden zone where Fellaghas have been sighted. The Fellaghas send a collector for the revolutionary tax every two weeks — a tax that the villagers would be foolish to refuse.

The soldiers search the village while Rachid speaks to his cousin Zarah (Gigi Terkemani) and her son Amar (Lounès Machene). Although they tell him nothing and Amar's brother is with Slimane, the village is massacred by the Fellaghas. But there is one traumatised survivor. Dougnac tells the men they must never forget what they have seen at Taïda.

Although clearly affected by what he has seen and, even after the violent skirmishes that take a devastating toll on his men, Terrien still questions the torture of a prisoner and the fighting of barbarism with barbarism as they prepare for Operation Slimane at Meshta Rehki. But as the full extent of the atrocities is revealed and he makes a grave error of judgement, the idealistic Lieutenant begins to re-evaluate his methods, even if it means compromising his beliefs.

Furthermore, it has become apparent there is a traitor in their midst. And Terrien is horrified by the contents of so-called "special drums".

Intimate Enemies is inspired by Patrick Rotman's book and subsequent documentary concerning the personal and psychological effects of the 1954-62 Algerian War of Independence on the soldiers involved in the conflict.

An uncompromising and brutally realistic war movie dramatizing the experiences of a platoon of French soldiers fighting the Fellaghas of Algeria's National Liberation Front in the country's remote mountain region, Intimate Enemies contains brief stories of the soldiers who fight for France: Sayeed, whose wife and children have been butchered by the Fellaghas and who fought with the Free French during the Second World War to open the Rome road, fighting German commandos hand-to-hand; Lacroix, who films his friends; and Dougnac, who has left a wife in Indo-China.

Intimate Enemies is beautifully shot against the rugged landscape of Algeria. There are a couple of gruesome and unsettling moments but the film is handled sympathetically and challenges the beliefs of both sides and how they are perceived. The film also features: Aurélien Recoing as Commandant Visoul; Marc Barbé as Capitaine Berthaut; Vincent Rottiers as Lefranc; Adrien Saint-Jore as Lacroix; Guillaume Gouix as Delmas; Antoine Laurent as Maheu; Anthony Decadi as Rougier; Timothée Manesse as Zunino.

Directed by Florent-Emilio Siri (director of the critically-acclaimed action thrillers Hostage, starring Bruce Willis, and The Nest), Intimate Enemies is co-written by Siri and author Rotman. The Director of Photography is Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci and the excellent, atmospheric music is by Alexandre Desplat.

Intimate Enemies comes to DVD as a special two-disc release loaded with extra features that provide an informative and comprehensive look at the making of the film and the real-life background to the story. A provocative war movie, it serves as a suitable companion piece to both Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle Of Algiers and Rachid Bouchareb's Days Of Glory.

The two-disc Intimate Enemies (Cert. 15) is available now on DVD at an RRP of £19.99 (Released 9 June, 2008).

Disc One

Feature presentation; scene selection; French 5.1 and DTS audio options; optional English subtitles.

Disc Two

A Director's Vision: Interview with Florent-Emilio Siri; Memories of War: Ex-Servicemen Recall; Storyboards (Ghost Town; Shooting First; War Of Words; Napalm Death; A Last Cigarette; Forest Fight; The Final Battle); Photo Gallery; UK Theatrical Trailer; From Actors to Soldiers; Cast and Crew Interview Gallery.

"An eye-opening journey into the dark heart of an oft-forgotten war" — Film Review
(5 stars)


"Slick action scenes" — The Daily Mirror

"Harrowing" — Empire Magazine

"Horrifically disturbing" — The Independent

"…emotive tale…that packs a punch" — The Times

"Intimate Enemies is beautifully shot against the rugged landscape of Algeria. There are a couple of gruesome and unsettling moments but the film is handled sympathetically and challenges the beliefs of both sides and how they are perceived" — MotorBar

"In the end, the strength of the innocent is broken
Had I known the outcome of accursed fate
I would have attacked first
For they will cut my throat
Or banish me from this land" — Kabyle poem recited by Sayeed in the film

Two million young Frenchmen were mobilized in Algeria: 27,000 lost their lives there; an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 died on the Algerian side.

Algeria won independence in 1962 but it was only in October 1999 that France officially recognised there had been a war in Algeria.