DVD review / “Return to Reims (fragments)” by Jean

About the adaptation of the autobiographical book by sociologist Didier Eribon Back to Reims, Jean-Gabriel Périot, with the support of numerous audiovisual archives, retraces the history of the working class from 1950 to the present day. Criticism and opinion on the film on the occasion of its video release.

This article is brought to you by the columnist Cedric Lepine.


Through the text of Didier Eribon interpreted by Adèle Haenel, Retour à Reims (Fragments) tells in archives an intimate and political history of the French working world from the beginning of the 1950s to today.

In a few movies, Jean-Gabriel Periot has become a insightful analyst of social history from the confrontation between yesterday’s images and contemporary thinking. This was indeed the principle of Our defeats (2019). This time, he is extending his investigation with always at his side the precious involvement of Emmanuelle Koenig as a documentalist capable of selecting extracts from the INA archives from which emerges a story of the forgotten of official history.

The architecture on which these images will be able to echo is the adaptation of Didier Eribon’s book Back to Reims (2009) whose reading of a few selected “fragments” is performed by the committed actress Adele Haenel. Around these different intermediaries, a mise-en-abîme of popular history is manifested, in a story that starts from a local and intimate point of view to become in a broad momentum, especially in the second part of the film, the story of a working class that has disappearedfragmented by a new form of atomization and dependence on work that is exploding contemporary precariousness.

The first part of the film is based on the socio-historical portrait of the mother of the author Didier Eribon and through her other women doubly despised by the patriarchal order. It is therefore a whole little-known popular memory which emerges which, although it concerns a large part of the population of the time, has often remained forgotten in the history of France in school textbooks.

This association between documentary and fictional images of the time with the analyzes of sociologist Didier Eribon embodied by the voice of Adèle Haenel, makes it possible to grasp the painful experience of a social construct. The film thus offers a dive into the last seventy years in France as fascinating as it is singular in its ability to open an infinite number of doors of reflection on contemporary society. Indeed, the second part, with the disappearance of the working class in the speeches of the left in power from the 1980s, demonstrates the recuperation of this electorate by the extreme right.

Learn more:

  • Return to Reims (fragments)
    by Jean-Gabriel Périot

    83 minutes. France, 2021.
    Original language: French

    With the voice of Adèle Haenel
    Theatrical release (France): March 30, 2022
    DVD release in France: September 20, 2022
    Format: 1.77 – Color
    Language: French – Subtitles: English.
    Publisher: Day2Party

    Interview with Jean-Gabriel Périot by Clarisse Fabre (film critic, Le Monde) (26′)
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DVD review / “Return to Reims (fragments)” by Jean-Gabriel Périot – Bulles de Culture