The Camp Followers ★★★★

Le soldatesse / The Camp Followers (Valerio Zurlini, 1965) 8/10

Harrowing WWII film set in Axis occupied Greece which depicts the genocide wreaked on the local citizens by the Facists and the Nazis. A disillusioned Italian soldier (Tomas Milian) is ordered to take a truckload of starving greek prostitutes from Athens to Albania to be delivered for entertainment to the troops fighting the partisans. He is joined by a boorish truck driver (Mario Adorf) and an unpleasant senior officer (Aleksander Gavric) along with 12 prostitutes. The journey is fraught with danger as they pass through burning villages littered with dead bodies. Along the way the men bond with the girls - the driver finds comfort with an older pragmatic prostitute (Valeria Moriconi) and the soldier falls for the most forthright woman (Marie Laforêt) who holds strong views and rebuffs him. More forthcoming towards him is the gentle and jovial one (Anna Karina). With great difficulty the survivors manage to trek to safety after partisans attack and destroy their truck. The film ends with the soldier more disillusioned with the death and destruction he has witnessed while the prostitute he loves decides she cannot allow her people to be treated like animals and walks off into the mountains to join the partisans. Zurlini takes on a neo-realist documentary-like approach to the story emphasising the absurdity of transporting prostitutes to brothels against the greater absurdity of the horror surrounding them under Mussolini-era fascism. The wonderful cast (Anna Karina was the big star) all work movingly together as an ensemble.