"Le Château de ma mère" ("My Mother's Castle") (France, 199?)

Figure 1.-- Every year Marcel’s family take their vacation in the beautiful French countryside of Provence. This is a scene from "Le Château de ma mère". It is based on the novel by Marcel Pagnol. The cover of the edition here has a scene from the film.

" Le Château de ma mère " ( My Mother's Castle ) is about Marcel and his realtion with his mother. I have few details at this time. The film is based on the novel by Marcel Pagnol.


The film was directed by Yves Robert based on the novel by Marcel Pagnol.


The book written by Marcel Pagnol, was originally published in French and in two volumes, La Glorie de mon père and Le Chateau de ma mère and was first published in Great Britain by Hamish Hamilton in 1960 under the title The Days Were Too Short . The Picador edition was published in 1991 with the two volumes in one book.


The cast is basically the same as the cast for " La Glorie de mon père ". It included: Philippe Caubère (Joseph Pagnol) , Nathalie Roussel (Augustine), Didier Pain (Oncle jules), Thérèse Liotard (Tante rose), Julien Ciamaca (Marcel at 11), Benoit Martin (Young Marcel), Victorien Delamare (Paul), Joris Molinas (Lili des Bellons).


The action takes place in 1906 at Marseille. The father, Joseph, is an institutor at the primary level. He is typical of those "hussards noirs", those really competent but also demanding primary level teachers who made the glory of Third Republic in being examples of probity and love for children's intellectual development. His own son, Marcel who became a famous French writer with Jean Giono, relates in this film the Grandeur of such an humble man as his father was. Seen through the eyes of his 11 year old boy, this epic travel along the Canal de Provence is a real poem to a day-to-day diary for reaching this little house called "le château de ma mère" embedded among real castles surrounding it but closed for every outer passengers. Why "le château de ma mère"? Because, for this wandering family which has something like 8 miles to walk until the house, the mother is like the corner stone cementing all the individual parts symbolized by the father and the three children. She is this silent guardian of ancestral rites like love caring and so many artistry made pastries and meals. When looking at her, we remember those 17th century paintings like Pieter de Hock or Bergman's films.

Three seasons are illustrated by the film . After a short introduction where Marcel is chosen to work harder than other boys to get a grant for superior studies and where we see the father working harder than his son for instructing him, then begins the first part: Christmas at les Bastides. We see the whole family with arms full of packs and gifts walking longs hours because having neither horses nor cars. But how warming the arrival and the Christmas even without any Christian rites. The second part is at Easter when the uncle opens a dark chocolate egg to let a dove flying away. Happy to meet again his friend of last summer, suddenly something happens: like Proust , Marcel mets a strange girl his age who symbolizes this poetic encounter we live when for the first time a girl opens the way to an imaginary world. For many days , Marcel feels accessing to this kingdom he known from his mother and now breathing with a girl full of fantasies and imagination. Is she from noble ascent ? No importance. Through the looking-glass of poetry, Marcel comes to the discovery of a new world, the discovery that even becoming a young man, he is still near living in his mother's kingdom in keeping into himself something called creativeness. The girl has now moved but she lives somewhere Marcel's hearth The third part, and the longer, relates diverses events playing on many moods from human selfishness to real empathy. The poblem to solve is simple: how to shorten time to arrive country home ? The answer is not so simple because in crossing private properties along the canal , the father is scaring to be put under arrest. Because the father is straight on moral grounds, he is always confronted to conflicts between which is right and which is wrong. His wife and also Marcel helps him to be smoother with himself . The asthounishing in this film is to see gradually love interweaving between every members becoming a kind of solidarity in love and distress. At the end, Marcel wins the second prize and his father is accepting him fully even not the first one.


"Le Château de ma mère" is the sequel to " La Glorie de mon père " which was filmed in the same location and with more or less the same cast.


The cover photograph shows a still from the film with left to right, Joris Molinas and Julien Ciamaca. Notice the buttons on the outside seem of the short trousers Julien is wearing. A HBC reader writes, "The costumes are a main ingredient for making this film an authentic piece of past history. Except for the fact that children are too clean in their suits, we have a good idea how they were dressed in France at the turn of the 20th century. Boys are clothed much like adults safe on one point: they all wear short pants. Their pants are cut just at the knee level and hold by suspenders on shirts with long sleeves even in warm summer. Kneesocks complete the costume. Children also wear a kind of white or brown cap. It is clear that at that time short pants were of great significance. It told every people that this eleven year boy is still a child and he has to proof he is no longer waiting to get his first longer one. It is so true that even at Christmas when the temperature is low, boys are always bare legs but with large wool scarfs on nose. On looking at the film, without any explanations, this customs seems unusual to us today. I can explain this convention. the first come from an american anthropologist who lived for a year at Roussillon, a little village in Provence. About bare knees and covered faces, here is his quote: 'The child needs not to be scaring cold or warm. When he begins to walk, he is always in wool knitted garments: socks, pants, sweater, scarf. When on warmer days in spring, they are still wearing their woolen garments. But, he is always bare legs. Frequently, we see young toddlers playing outdoors in a winter freeezing wind, well wrapped up, with an heavy scarf worn round neck and with knees blueished by cold weather. It seems that the neck is the most delicate body part - which is the most well protected part - with, at the same time knees and legs needing no special attention.' [Wylie] I ask this question to Véronique a friend who lives in Périgord in the Southwest of France. She answered me: ' The use of scarf is needed because in the neck, there are large superficial vessels which are proneness to lose their warming balance faster then in legs where vessels are deeply located into limbs.' "

French boys commonly wore sailor suits in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A reader writes, "There is a scene in the film Le Chateau de Ma Mere and described in the book by Marcel Pagnol where the young Marcel and a peasant boy he meets on holiday in Provence get soaked in a rainstorm and Marcel's family lend the peasant boy (Lili) an old sailor suit of Marcel's to change into - of which he is very proud, not having ever worn such clothes." Pagnol's mother was a seamstress and he describes how she made him and his brother new clothes to go on holiday with. As a result his clothese were very stylish and well made. This is part of the reason why Lili when given an old sailor suit of Marcel's to wear is so proud of it.

Reader Comments

Both films were shown consecutively on British television in the mid 1990s and I remember watching both. The acting was superb, but what stole the film was the location shots, especially those shot in the French hillsides with Vladimir Cosma’s haunting music in the background, which I can still remember even though it’s been quite a while since I saw both films. Another reader writes, "This film is about unconditional loving care. After having seen it, we feel better in ourself. "Le Chateau de ma mère" is not only a work of art but also a nice anthropological and historical survey of a day-to-day family life. I invites any people asking to live both realistic and poetic experience to stop doing anything for 2 hours. Maybe happiness is not so far rom here. Thanks to French Cinema and to French Litterature."


Wylie, Laurence. Village in the Vaucluse (Boston, Mass., 1957). French translation, Un village en Vaucluse (Paris: Gallimard, 1968).

Cauhape, Véronique. St-Seurin-de-Prats, Périgord, France. An interview August 10, 2003.

Anthony and Michel Coron


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Created: August 8, 2003
Last updated: February 9, 2004