Marcel Pagnol was born in Aubagne in the very south of France and the dramatic landscapes and earthy inhabitants of this part of the world really are the true stars of these novels.
At the beginning of the story we meet César 'le Papet' and Ugolin Soubeyran; an uncle and nephew who are central figures within the local village and who, with dreams of amounting riches for themselves, set their sights on owning a property down the valley that is ripe for cultivating, with a sizeable farmhouse and, more importantly, a spring that will allow Ugolin to grow thousands of carnations and sell them in the nearby town.
Following the untimely (and rather suspect) death of the recluse, Pique-Bouffigue, who owns the land, the Soubeyrans set to work protecting their interests and concealing the spring before relations arrive in the hills to claim their inheritance. Jean Cadoret, Pique-Bouffigue's nephew and a hunchback from out of town promptly arrives with his beautiful wife and daughter, intent on becoming a true peasant and making a home and business for himself and his family by tilling the land. Land that is now as dry as a bone. What then follows, unsurprisingly, is the painful downfall of this spirited, initially carefree man and the strong women who are there to support him; a decline that is uncomfortable both to watch (Jean is masterfully played by Gérard Depardieu in the 1986 film) and to read about.
**Apologies for those of you who don't understand any French - I can't find an appropriate clip with English subtitles but I think this trailer gets the feel of the film across quite well :-)**
I have to say, and hate to say, that I actually prefer the film in this case. Each and every character is brought to life, and indeed, rejuvenated somewhat by the brilliant performances by the likes of Depardieu and Daniel