For the second time, Romain Gary’s novel, “The Promise of Dawn”, is adapted to the cinema. Director Eric Barbier transcribes the fusional relationship between the writer and his mother. An oppressive love, but a driving force in his career.

You do not know to whom you have the honor to speak, my son will be ambassador of France, knight of the Legion of Honor, great dramatic author, Ibsen, Grabriele d’Annunzio! ” These few lines taken from Romain Gary’s “The Promise of Dawn” summarize to themselves the soul of this novel that has become a classic in literature: an oppressive, possessive, insatiable love, that of a mother for her son.

Fifty-seven years after the publication of the work, Eric Barbier is the second director to make the adaptation on the big screen, after Jules Dassin in 1971. From the childhood of the writer in Vilnius in Lithuania, through Poland, then Nice, until his engagement in the Free French Forces during the Second World War, it traces the course of Romain Gary, son of Nina, a Russian émigré, whimsical, in need of recognition.


“A double promise”

And the result is rather successful. In this 2017 version, the filmmaker accurately transcribes the spirit of the book and this particular mother-son relationship. “‘The Promise of Dawn’ is the story of a fusional couple,” says Eric Barbier. “It’s a double promise.” Nina promises her son to love him no matter what, to support him inconsiderately and wholeheartedly, and in return, Romain promises to succeed and become famous. the story of a son fighting for his mother’s dream to become real “.

For the role of this suffocating, tortured woman, on the edge of madness, Eric Barbier chose to trust Charlotte Gainsbourg. While the actress could have fallen into caricature, interpreting with a Russian accent cut with the knife, the exuberant Nina, she instead found the right tone, without doing too much. Overflowing with love, she perfectly dons the costume of the mother of Romain Gary. With the right mix, she shows how much this cumbersome passion has finally become a driving force in the writer’s life. A love that has led him to surpass himself and become one of the greatest writers of his generation.

A cry of love to France

While Charlotte Gainsbourg is overwhelming and feverishly inhabited by the ghost of Nina, Pierre Niney would be less subtle. On the screen, it does not equal the intensity of his partner. In the role of the writer, the young actor over-fires, more than he convinces, especially when he finds himself grimed as an aging Gary. In his voice-over, ubiquitous, however, we find the tone of the book, both poignant and tinged with humor, the acid and lucid look of the novelist on his maternal relationship. “I do not think a son ever hated his mother as much as I did at that moment,” Romain Gary begins to think as Nina gives him a surprise visit to the army in front of all his comrades.

Beyond this face-to-face devouring, the film is also a cry of love to France. From his miserable childhood in the streets of Vilnius, the writer never stopped hearing from his mother’s mouth that his true homeland was that of Victor Hugo . He who had his country at the beginning of his life Russia, then Poland, has always claimed French. Naturalized in 1935, he did not hesitate to join General de Gaulle in 1940, to defend this country where he was not even born. As Nina had predicted, Romain Gary was awarded the Legion of Honor. The little boy from Vilnius even became a Companion of the Liberation. “I did not despair, I kept my promise and I continue I served France with all my heart, since that’s all that remains of my mother, except for a small photo ID “, he summarized in” The promise of dawn “.