The Well-Digger’s Daughter (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 17, 2013 by  

Wonderful acting, enjoyable storytelling and beautiful cinematography… What a wonderful remake from Daniel Auteuil and a homage to Marcel Pagnol’s work!   “The Well-Digger’s Daughter” is  recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 A.S. Films – Zack Film – Pathe Production. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Well-Digger’s Daughter (La fille due puisatier)


DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber


Release Date: December 24, 2012

Directed by Daniel Auteuil

Based on the novel by Marcel Pagnol

Adaptation by Daniel Auteuil

Produced by Alain Sarde

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography by Jean-Fracois Robin

Casting by Coralie Armedeo, Elodie Demey

Costume Design by Pierre-Yves Gayraud


Daniel Auteuil as Pascal Amoretti

Kad Merad as Felipe Rambert

Sabine Azeme as Mme. Mazel

Jean-Pierre Darroussin as M. Mazel

Nicolas Duvauchelle as Jacques Mazel

Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Patricia Amoretti

Emilie Cazenave as Amanda

Marie-Anne Chazel as Nathalie

Coline Bosso as Isabelle

Chloe Malarde as Marie

Brune coustellier as Lemonore

Ilna Porte as Roberte

Twenty-five years after rising to international acclaim in Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring, Daniel Auteuil returns to the world of Marcel Pagnol for his first work as director with this celebrated remake of the 1940s classic. Auteuil stars as the eponymous well-digger Pascal, a widower living with his six daughters in the Provence countryside at the start of World War I. His eldest, Patricia (the luminous Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), has returned home from Paris to help raise her sisters, and Pascal dreams of marrying her off to his loyal assistant Felipe (Kad Merad). But when she’s impregnated by a wealthy young pilot (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who promptly abandons her for the frontlines, Pascal is left to contend with the consequences. An exquisitely crafted, sun-drenched melodrama, set to a score by Academy Award-nominee Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech), The Well-Digger’s Daughter captures all the warmth and humanist spirit of Pagnol’s original work.

The playwright, novelist turned filmmaker Marcel Pagnol will be remembered for his 1930’s romantic films such as “The Fanny Trilogy” (which consists of “Marius”, “Fanny” and “Cesar”).

An award-winning French filmmaker who worked on more than a dozen films, for many who grew up with his work, his work captured France in the early 20th Century.  By 1940, Pagnol would go on to direct “La fille du Puisatier” (“The Well-Diggers Daughter”), a film that would would later catch the interest of actor Daniel Auteuil (“36th Precinct”, “Cache”, “Un Coeur en Hiver”, “The Valet”).  An actor who also was once directed by Marcel Pagnol long ago for films such as “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring”.

So much that it would lead to Auteuil to write, direct and star in the 2011 remake of the film (Auteuil is currently working on the remake of “The Fanny Trilogy”). In collaboration with cinematographer Jean-Francois Robin (“Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud”, “Betty Blue”, “Chaos”) and composer Alexandre Desplat (“The King’s Speech”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”), the film was well-received by film critics.

For those who have been waiting for a home video release of this film, “The Well-Digger’s Daughter” was released in the U.S. in Dec. 2012 courtesy of Kino Lorber on Blu-ray and DVD.

“The Well-Digger’s Daughter” is a film set before World War II, in the French countryside.  The film begins with an 18-year-old named Patricia (portrayed by Astrid Berges-Frisbey, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”, “The Sex of Angels”) who is delivering lunch to her father Pascal Amoretti (portrayed by Daniel Auteuil) and his helper Felipe Rambert (portrayed by Kad Merad, “The Chorus”, “22 Bullets”, “Welcome to the Sticks”).

To get from one side to another, Patricia must cross the river but a young wealth man named Jacques Mazel (portrayed by Nicolas Dauvauchelle, “White Material”, “Polisse), who’s family owns the land, decides to help Patricia by carrying her to the other side, despite Patricia not wanting anyone holding her.  Also, for the fact that he is rich, she is poor.

With Patricia celebrating her birthday, even though she comes from a poor family, her father has been saving up to buy his daughter a new hat.  Because she is getting older, Pascal is a traditional family man who has to raise six daughters since his wife’s death and works hard as a well-digger.

Another well-digger, but much younger, Felipe has always been happy when he sees Patricia come by.  When Felipe asks if he can marry his daughter, Pascal will only say yes, if she wants to marry him but he has his blessing.  Felipe tells Pascal that he has tickets to the air show and would like to ask Patricia to marry him.  At first Patricia is not interested, knowing that her sister Amanda (portrayed by Emilie Cazenave) likes him.  But for the sake of keeping him happy for her father and her sister, she agrees to go with him.

Back at the home of Jacques Mazel, we learn that Jacques is the child of a wealthy tool shop store owner M. Mazel (portrayed by Jean-Pierre Darroussin, “Le Havre”, “22 Bullets”, “A Very Long Engagement”) and has a mother, Mme. Mazel (portrayed by Sabine Azema, “Wild Grass”, “Smoking/no Smoking”, “Private Fear in Public Places”), who fears for her only son because he is a pilot in the military and a war is coming.

While at the air show, Felipe explains that his friend, a pilot gave him tickets to the air show and can’t wait to introduce Patricia to his good friend.  When Felipe sees his friend, Jacques Mazel, Patricia realizes it is the same guy that helped carry her over the river the other day.

As Jacques sends Felipe to find a friend of theirs, both Jacques and Patricia have a conversation and wonders if she is engaged to Felipe, which she tells him no.  Immediately, Jacques wants to spend time with her and tells her that if she wants to meet with him, to come up with a story that she has to meet with an aunt that lives near the city and tell that to Felipe, and so she can spend time with him briefly.

So, Patricia does just that and goes to join Jacques, while Felipe, looks at the opportunity for him to drink and gain some courage in telling Patricia that he wants to marry her.

Meanwhile, Jacques and Patricia are in the hotel room and immediately he begins kissing Patricia, who has never kissed anyone before.  But she regrets it because she barely knows the man and she is a respectable daughter who should know better.  Patricia is also a bit upset that Jacques came to her quite strong.

Patricia leaves to find Felipe and leave, because her curfew is 7:00 p.m. But Felipe is drunk and can’t get his car to start.  Afraid that Pascal will get mad at him, he sees Jacques coming down the road with his motorcycle and asks him to please take Patricia home.

And as Jacques goes to take Patricia home, she tells him to stop and immediately, the two head out somewhere in the countryside and she wants to give herself to Jacques and the two make love.

Jacques tells Patricia that he wants to see her, but Patricia is afraid that the two are from both worlds but tells him, if she wants to see her again, she will wait for him near a monastery.  And Jacques tells her that he will.

But when Jacques arrives home, he finds out that he must report to military duty immediately.  Jacques tells his mother to please deliver a note to Patricia that he is unable to see her because of his military duties.

So, the following day, as Patricia waits near the monastery, Mme. Mazel sees her waiting but instead of giving her the letter, she decides to burn it.

Fastforward a month later and Felipe must now serve time in the military.  He has a talk with Patricia about marrying him but she tells him that she can’t marry him, because she is pregnant with another man’s baby.  A wealthy man who is gone for military duty and Felipe knows who it is.  He tells her that her father will be upset but to save her honor, she can say it is his.  But Patricia tells him that she intends to tell her father that she is pregnant.

When Patricia confronts her father about her pregnancy, he is shocked by it but still loves her.

By the next day, Pascal and his six daughters show up to the Mazel house to meet with Jacques parents.  The Mazel’s are shocked of why would Pascal and his daughters come to visit but he tells them that Jacques was dating her son.

Mme. Mazel quickly thinks that Pascal is trying to blackmail the family and that many women go after their son.

But Pascal tells them that his daughter is pregnant and it is the right thing for a man to accept the responsibility for what their son has done.  But the Mazel’s don’t see it that way and will not accept Patricia or the child.

Upset by the fact that now the son will be a bastard son with no father and his family want nothing to do with the child, it ruins his family’s honor.  As the family head’s back home, he tells Patricia that because the father is not around and his family wants nothing to do with her and the child, the family honor of the Amoretti family has been shamed.  As much as he loves his daughter, for the sake of her sisters, he tells Patricia that she must leave home and raise the child on her own.  So, he sends her off to live with his sister, her aunt.

Fastforward several more months, Felipe has arrived for a short break from his military duties and he finds out that Jacques’s plane was shot down.  While no body has been found, he is assumed to have been killed and the Mazel family are now distraught.

When he goes to visit Pascal and the family, he learns that Pacal wants Patricia invisible to the family and does not want anyone to mention her name.  Surprised that Pascal has not even checked on his daughter and has burned all letters from her, he and Amanda decide to go on a trip to visit Patricia, but both come up with a story and tell Pascal that the two are going to a place to have some fun.

Pascal allows it but tells Felipe that he better make sure his car does not break down and let some guy in a motorcycle come and give his daughter a ride back home.

When the two arrive back home, Pascal knows that the two went to visit Patricia and he begins yelling at them.  Felipe tries to explain that they wanted to see how she is doing and that he should care that now that he is grandfather of a boy.  He shares the name of the father but also has the last name of the family, Amoretti.

This angers Pascal even more because the Amoretti name is an honorable name and should not go to a bastard son.  So, Felipe tells him that if he doesn’t want that, he will marry Patricia and so, she can have his name.

This now gives Pascal a reason why to bring his daughter home but also make things right with the Amoretti name.  So, he plans to visit Patricia and discuss plans for her to marry Felipe, but will she do it?

Meanwhile, what happens when the grieving parents of Jacques, want to be part of their grandson’s life?


“The Well-Digger’s Daughter” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  The first thing you will notice is how beautiful the scenic shots are.  Jean-Francois Robin takes a page from Marcel Pagnol’s writings of the countryside and capturing the beauty of the area, the flowers and the look of old France.  The film showcases many colors during the outdoors, while the indoors looks amazing because of the amount of detail that can be seen.

Shot in 35 mm, picture quality is incredibly well-detailed.  You can see the textures of the clothing, skin details, the film looks magnificent in HD.


“The Well-Digger’s Daughter” is presented in French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The film is dialogue-driven but the surround channels provide a good amount of ambiance for its countryside environment.  You will hear the birds, during the air show, you can hear crowds.  But what sticks out the most is the music.  Alexandre Desplat’s music is absolutely beautiful and moving.

The film is presented with English subtitles.


“The Well-Digger’s Daughter” comes with trailers and 16 stills from the film.

I absolutely love Marcel Pagnol films.  Its his way of covering romance and family, that is a style that makes me enamored with Yasujiro Ozu’s work.  They have a unique style of capturing an era of their country that is of the past but relationships that are tied into family tradition and honor.

Sure, “The Well-Digger’s Daughter” can seem banal on paper, daughter gets pregnant, must tell parents and must raise child on their own.  We’ve watched films like this, we’ve seen dramas about this.

But what makes this film so enchanting is how it centers around an old traditional family and how Pascal tries to keep his family’s honor by having the man’s family acknowledge her pregnancy and the baby.  But to see how this loving father get dejected, lose his honor and essentially is forced to cut ties with his own daughter.

We also get to see the distinction of class differences, as Pascal is seen as a well-digger, Mme. Mazel is a woman who does not want her son mixing with poor women, and to why she burned the letter mean for Patricia, was it because she looked poor?  Possibly.

But it’s that display of one’s guilt of getting pregnant before marriage and the inconvenience that was tied into the old traditions.  Which may be hard for one to fathom in today’s world, of many single parents and where family honor especially in the family name, in most modern cultures, are a thing of the past.

The performances of the film are also quite notable.  French actor Daniel Auteuil has starred in many films, but his role as Pascal, he manages to portray the aged, hardworking father with efficacy.  Also, you have another talented actor in Jean-Pierre Darroussin as Jacques’ father and also actress Sabine Azema (partner of filmmaker Alain Resnais), playing Jacques domineering mother.  The film features solid performances by these veteran talents and definitely makes this remake quite enjoyable.

While the film takes place during wartime and showcases an enjoyable romance melodrama, you can’t help but watch these films and yearn for the days of old.  The storytelling of Marcel Pagnol that is able to fit in the complexities of old traditional values but also make it appealing and enjoyable for today’s audiences.  While I have not seen the original “La Fille du puisatier” (as only a few Pagnol films have been released in America), for this remake, I absolutely enjoyed it.

Wonderful acting, enjoyable storytelling and beautiful cinematography… What a wonderful remake from Daniel Auteuil and a homage to Marcel Pagnol’s work!   “The Well-Digger’s Daughter” is  recommended!

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