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La Grande Illusion (1937)
|by P. G. R. Nair|
Director: Jean Renoir/France /French/114 mts
The three Frenchmen discover that their fellow prisoners have been digging an escape tunnel, and all of them agree to help -- Maréchal and Rosenthal with enthusiasm, de Boeldieu out of a sense of duty. As he puts it, when on a golf course, one plays golf, and while in a prison camp, one tries to escape -- it's the accepted thing to do. As Von Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu become friends, and the rank-and-file soldiers banter as much with the German guards as with each other, the characters seem involved less in a war than in some vast, petty game, albeit one with deadly consequences; they often talk about women and food, while never mentioning political ideology.
In Grand Illusion, everyone learns to give and take, without betraying his essential personality, without denying differences of language and education. The prisoners sustain themselves with small delusions: digging a tunnel by night; dressing up in drag to remind themselves of the womanhood that has no place in prison life; celebrating the smallest and most fleeting of victories as news filters in from the front; or, most pathetic of all, Von Rauffenstein’s careful tending of a geranium in his fortress bedroom.
The poetic realism of The Grand Illusion outlasted the savage conflict that had once engulfed it; now, it lives again, perpetually new in its passion and yet saddened by its own knowledge of the violent absurdity of war. Orson Welles named Grand Illusion as one of the movies he would take with him “on the ark.” Hard to disagree.
A series of "Hundred Favorite Films Forever"
|More by : P. G. R. Nair|
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