Galoup (Denis Lavant), now a middle-aged loner living in Marseilles, recalls his life as a sergeant in the Foreign Legion, leading troops in the Gulf of Djibouti. There he developed a jealous obsession with a young recruit, Sentain (Gregoire Colin) who was also an object of fascination for their commanding officer, Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor). Through the troops' day to day duties and training exercises, Galoup's obsession mounts until it threatens to destroy both Sentain and himself.

Strange, rewarding cinema.

Claire Denis' 1998 film Beau Travail is finally getting a release in this country. It's a strange film, rather demanding of audiences but it certainly has an allure and ultimately a reward.

The elusive story, which Denis maintains is based on Herman Melville's Billy Budd, is about a soldier, Galoup, Denis Lavant, who recalls his days in the Foreign Legion when he was based in Africa. He's second in-command to Forestier, Michel Subor, and is jealous of his relationship with him which he feels is threatened by the arrival of new recruit Gilles Sentain, Gregoire Colin, but you feel that narrative is subordinate to images and mood in Beau Travail....

You could hear the seats flapping up with regular monotony as people left the cinema when this film screened at the Venice Film Festival three years ago, but the ones who left missed something. This is one of those films where you need to sit on your impatience, immerse yourselves in what Denis is offering. The beauty of men's bodies in a stark environment as an aesthetic experience – and deal with the film in retrospect of an ending that is truly extraordinary and beautiful, and unexpected.