Bertha and the trench soldiers

SEPTEMBER 1917. As the intensifying bombardments ravage the front lines, a French soldier, the sole survivor of his unit, is inexplicably struck by mysterious beams of light. These rays of light transmute him into an animal. In this newly acquired form, he must confront an adversary that had previously remained unseen.


is a stop-motion short film,

lasting 7 minutes, entirely shot in 35 mm. 

Le Poilu

The WW1 French Infantryman

The Film


La Grosse Bertha

the 420-mm German howitzer

In France, the Poilu, a term that literally translates to “hairy,” occupies a significant place in the collective consciousness. This nickname, initially coined to describe the unkempt appearance of soldiers, conceals the harsh and detrimental reality of life in the World War I trenches. As I delved into the Memoirs of Verdun, where my grandfather served, I discovered the dual nature of this expression. Indeed, “Poilu” signified both the brutal living conditions endured by French soldiers and their “courage” in the face of relentless enemy bombardments. During that era, the most famous German heavy artillery cannon bore the name “The Big Bertha.”

Manufactured by Krupp Industries, it was christened “Bertha” in honor of the company head’s daughter, Alfried Krupp.
How could one resist the temptation to transpose these elements of the collective imagination into a fantastical tale? Thus, the brutal realities of the trenches metamorphose the unshaven soldier into a small white creature adorned with a lion’s crest, boldly confronting the formidable Big Bertha. And Big Bertha is personified as a colossal, naked woman, underscoring the cynicism of the industrialist who named such a devastating invention after his own daughter.

Jaques Prévert

This quote by Jacques Prévert, featured at the outset of the film, perfectly encapsulates its essence. While the storyline draws evident inspiration from the events of the First World War, Bertha and the Trench Soldier primarily serves as a poignant allegory of warfare. Poignant, as the serious subject matter is treated with a gentle irony, making it accessible even to young viewers who need not fear its non-violent imagery.

Yet, it is also a bitter portrayal, for like all conflicts waged by humans against one another, it can only bring death and devastation.

War has left its mark on the annals of human history, causing anguish and ruin across the ages. At times, the stark realism presented in television news and documentary photography sparks outrage among citizens of various nations. My aim was not to document war, but to offer a profoundly humanistic contemplation on past and present conflicts through a poetic lens.

Nevertheless, this perspective carries a dark irony, as the very individuals who conceived the art of war often become its first victims as well.

Please, turn-off the light

to watch the film


As a seasoned Props-Maker for French and American historical films, adept at manipulating materials and sculpting volumes, Frédéric GLON naturally gravitated towards the Stop-Motion technique when crafting “Bertha and the Trench Soldier” (OT: Bertha et le poilu). He dedicated approximately five years to meticulously fashioning puppets and sets within his workshop, and captured the scenes using a 35mm film camera.

The choice of these techniques held profound significance. They were far from arbitrary. The portrayal of characters navigating the muddied trenches, accentuated by the play of light and shadow, demanded the authenticity provided by physical settings. The gentle hues and grain patterns evoked by the film roll echoed the aesthetic of historical WWI photographs, thereby forging a unique union between the tangible world and the realm of imagination. This blending has become an almost conceptual hallmark of Frédéric Glon’s creative endeavors.


Making-of : le Film

Bertha and the Trench Soldier


Bertha and the Trench Soldier projection

If you would like to screen the film during a festival, exhibition or any other events, please, contact us.