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L’Incroyable histoire du facteur Cheval

(The Ideal Palace)

Until recently, I’d never heard of Ferdinand Cheval and his ‘Palais Idéal’. Now, I just want to get on a plane to France, travel to Châteauneuf-de-Galaure and see it for myself.

Poster for the true story L'Incroyable histoire du facteur ChevalFerdinand Cheval was a village postman when he struck on the idea of building a palace to honour his infant daughter. Supported by his ultra-patient wife, he began the project in 1897. Thirty-three years later, he was done. Collecting stones on his 32-km postal route he had assembled a fantastical castle, full of allusions to mythology, religions and styles of architecture from dozens of eras and places. It would have beem an incredible achievement even by a team of professionals, but Cheval worked alone, often at night by lantern, and had no training in building or architecture at all. 

Jacques Gamblin plays Cheval as a man incapable of showing love to his wife and children, instead channeling what should have been normal human passion into one massive and magnificent act of creation.

The Ideal Palace is a likeable, worthy and moving film. Ferdinand Cheval occupies a tiny, mostly unknown speck of history, but his story mightily deserved to be told.

– Graeme Tuckett, stuff.co.nz


Fin XIXème, Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, est un simple facteur qui parcourt chaque jour la Drôme, de village en village. Solitaire, il est bouleversé quand il rencontre la femme de sa vie, Philomène. De leur union naît Alice. Pour cette enfant qu’il aime plus que tout, Cheval se jette alors dans un pari fou : lui construire de ses propres mains, un incroyable palais. Jamais épargné par les épreuves de la vie, cet homme ordinaire n’abandonnera pas et consacrera 33 ans à bâtir une œuvre extraordinaire : ‘Le Palais idéal’.

C’est avec une tendresse évidente pour ses personnages que Nils Tavernier raconte la destinée étrange du facteur Cheval. Il offre un beau film sur l’amour inconditionnel et l’âpreté de la vie, porté par un Jacques Gamblin transfiguré et épatant. Il est aux côtés de Laetitia Casta l’épine dorsale de ce conte humain.

– Fabrice Leclerc, Paris Match

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