Director(s): Jean Renoir
IMDB Rating: 8.2
During 1st WW, two French officers are captured. Captain De Boeldieu is an aristocrat while Lieutenant Marechal was a mechanic in civilian life. They meet other prisoners from various backgrounds, as Rosenthal, son of wealthy Jewish bankers. They are separated from Rosenthal before managing to escape. A few months later, they meet again in a fortress commanded by the aristocrat Van Rauffenstein. De Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with him but Marechal and Rosenthal still want to escape...
anton-6 (20 May 2013)
I have tried to get this film for months on the criterion collection but itseems impossible here in Sweden(Maybe not impossible,you can order it onAmazon but thatÂ´s to expensive).So when I finally found it on video this iswhat I say about it:This anti-war masterpiece film is really ONE OF THE GREATEST FILMS EVER.Ialmost liked it as much as seven samurai.ItÂ´s a about a group of Frenchprisoners during the world war one.The performances is simply some of the best I have seen(Jean Gabin Erich vonStroheim...).The cinematography is beautiful,great script but I guess i wasmost impressed by the direction by Jean Renoir.I donÂ´t think that I have been more touched by a film then this.It has sucha deep humanity.A poetic film that should be seen by every one.Also rememberthat I have only seen this film once and it could be in my top 20 over thebest films ever and when I watch it again it could be in top3.RATING: 5/5
chromo (20 May 2013)
From Jean Renoir's autobiography, My Life and My Films(1974):"If a French farmer should find himself dining at the sametableas a French financier, those two Frenchmen would have nothingtosay to each other, each being unconcerned with the other'sinterests. But if a French farmer meets a Chinese farmertheywill find any amount to talk about. This theme of the bringingtogether of men through their callings and common interestshashaunted me all my life and does so still. It is the theme of'LaGrande Illusion' and it is present, more or less, in allmyworks."In a sense, 'La Grande Illusion' is a counterpoint in anargumentof stories: in one corner, Jean Renoir & friends singingabouthumor and good cheer; in the other, a handful of Germansdemanding bigotry and murderous pride.My opinion of the movie is quite high, but I think, fromhavingread that book and a few others, that the real accomplishmentsin'Illusion,' artistic and thematic, come directly from Renoir'sdeep affection of people and our loves.To live your life with love and humor takes thoughtfuldelicacy.It's much easier to close your heart, fence yourself in,andnever have a true friend in your life: and such closed-heartedpeople are inevitably the ones who coolly turn the politicalscrews until the world bursts into famine and war.It was too much to think that 'La Grande Illusion' wouldpreventthe then coming war, as Renoir hoped. But to look at thestoryagain, as a lyrical anti-fascist statement and a call toweighfriendship and good company over nationalism (of any sort),thatI think is where the story gets really good.The modern era continues to give us a real choice. We cankill,without effort, to subdue the stranger. Or we can jointhestranger for a meal and a conversation, and become friends.Whichof these is the true vision of the world's "leaders"? Coldhearts, cold future.Something to think about as you watch the movie.
Petzer (18 May 2013)
One could argue about the technical aspect of the film, but I won't. As inmany Renoir movies, what is essential is the human content. I think thatthetitle does not really refer to the movie but can be taken as a criticalstance concerning this movie. The greatest illusion of it all, is thatRenoir displays characters that are fundamentally and primarily goodpeople.No one is bad here, there are no villains, no treacherous minds. thefrench escape because it is their "duty", just as the german officer shootsBoildieu because he has to do it. But they are all human and honest anyway.That's why it is a great movie: it makes you believe for two hours that theworld is filled with people who have a sense of dignity and a code ofbehaviour that prevents them from doing evil.The second part of the film in the german farm is the real anti-war stance.Gabin could have stayed there and be a farmer, though he is a city bloke,never caring about his being french and her being german. this shows thatpeople are the same everywhere and --just as the last image of an invisibleswiss frontier shows it-- that frontiers are only boundaries meninvented.
alangaynorjr (18 May 2013)
I thought I might see if IMDb is a good platform to a launch adiscussion of Criterion's 1st DVD and a classic of french cinema.As part of an assignment for my UCLA French Film class, I've been askedto compare two of the film's scenes (non consecutive). This comparisonshould be vivid in motifs, thematic presence, camera angles, style etcI've screened the film many times, found tons of analysis forindividual scenes, but I'm struggling to find the two scenes that wouldbe perfect candidates for comparison and cross-analysis.What do the resident film buffs at IMDb think? Any suggestions? Thanksfor any input from a longtime lurker, Alan
Polaris_DiB (11 May 2013)
It was only after this movie that I went through some of my logs,lists, reviews, and whatnot and realized that I've never seen a Renoirfilm before this one. What the ... ? Anyway, this movie is about howwar democratizes class politics, despite the pomp and standing of thevarious individuals involved, shown through the actions of a bunch ofPOW officers during WWI. It has a very good ending, but Renoir isn'tquite finished making all his points yet and it continues on, includinga minor love story and some more character development before finallyconcluding. The most remarkable thing about this movie is that it wasmade in the 30s... in the midst of depression, between WWI and WWII,and it definitely shows that the issues of WWI weren't resolved beforethe fighting concluded. In that way, it's a pretty observant andpoignant film.--PolarisDiB
Jostein Strand (11 May 2013)
French officers is prisoners of war in Germany during WWI. They never giveup escaping, and gets transferred all the time. French poetic realism theycalled it. 60 years later we can also call it slow-paced and even boring.Well this movie ain't all that bad. And the last half hour is memorable.Butthe start introduces a lot of people that just disappears, and some of themare actually more interesting than those we follow lateron.
Stephen C. Becker (11 May 2013)
Many insightful comments concerning this enduring cinematic gem havepreceded mine, and, if only for that reason, I shall keep my commentsbrief.While I am not, and never have been, a marxist, the deepest impressionthatthis film made, on me, was that values shared by class, which, at leastbefore the First World War transcend those of nationality, were profoundandsignificant. This is exemplified by the tete-a-tete between Rauffenstein,one of the few Junkers who survived the carnage of 1914-15, and Boiledieu,the Royalist for whom the Petainsist slogan "honneur, travail, patrie,"would probably have been more evocative than the Republican credo of"liberte, egalite, fraternite." Incidentally, I have pondered, for manyyears, over the seamless transition between French and English during thatconversation between these two men, and I have yet to understand whatRenoirmeant by this except perhaps to underscore the importance of their sharedvalues. (Hello, Josh.)
gbheron (10 May 2013)
Parts POW escape movie, parts anti-war movie, parts buddy movie, partssocial commentary, "The Grand Illusion" is a timeless gem. Released in 1937the war in question is World War I, and the prisoners are French, theircaptors German. There are four main characters; three prisoners and thecommandant of their camp. One prisoner and the commandant are aristocracyfrom the old, nineteenth century Europe, the Europe being destroyed aroundthem by The Great War. Theirs is the grand illusion of the title. One of theremaining two is a member of the proletariat, the other a member of thenewly rich bourgeoisie. There are numerous famous scenes, copied in manymovies in the years to come. There is also great acting, directing, andcinematography. "Grand Illusion" is a classic, so don't let the 30s filmingtechnology and the subtitles scare you off. You won't bedisappointed.
jzappa (08 May 2013)
Jean Renoir's 1937 time capsule of poetic realism is all about tone, atone of longing and cynicism. It has a heightened aestheticism, but onethat doesn't draw consciousness to the representational aspects of thefilm. Long, fluid takes counterpoint the mood with a brisk pace. Abored restlessness. This film is a lot of things. It's riddled withsymbolism, it has no interest in the war going on outside the walls ofits POW camp setting and it captures a great feeling of male bondingand camaraderie. It's as if they're boys and the camp is a new schoolto them. Everyone alike complains about the food, the cold, the smells,what have you. Enemies are only enemies because it makes sensepolitically, not on personal level. "It's good to see you again,gentlemen," Joseph Von Stroheim says. "I'm sorry it had to be here."Even the planning of escape is patient and leisurely.Their easygoing attitude is in part disillusionment. They see thesternness of the neighboring boot camp: "Those children acting likesoldiers. In here, the soldiers act like children." Dry, sometimessilly humor complements the attitude. When a German officer tries tocheer up an exasperated Jean Gabin in solitary confinement, it feelslike the scene in Animal House when John Belushi tries to cheer upFlounder by crushing a beer can on his head. The central drive of thestory, a plan to escape, seems to be out of a sort of rebellion againstboredom. As one German says, "The war's too long."When I first saw this film at a screening at the Taft Museum, I lovedit but I felt the ending ruined it. It felt tacked on, unnecessary. Butnow, seeing the film again, I've changed my mind. The farm woman is awidow, they're fugitives. Hey, lonely is lonely. She and her daughterare naive, the POWs are disenchanted. They refresh each other.In this humanistic war drama, there is more frustration between classesthan the sides of WWI. Everyone learns to give and take, withoutbetraying who they are personally, without denying differences ofculture and class. "Playing patience? Yes. I'm a realist," says onearistocratic character as he and the other prisoners hydrate themselveswith small dreams, digging a tunnel by night, dressing up in drag toawaken their memories of womanhood, commemorating the smallest and mosttentative of defeats to the enemy as news dribbles in from the front,or von Stroheim's sensitive care of a geranium in his fortress bedroom.I love Von Stroheim, his extreme Germanness and how he uses hischaracter's injured spine to complement it. It's one of the manynuances that complements the paring down of all the characters' viewsof life. The grand illusion is nationality. It's man-made, and so areborders.
daniel charchuk (08 May 2013)
A brilliant piece on war and class distinctions and the strugglebetween them. Probably one of the first anti-war films, and possiblyone of the very best. Incredibly sharp writing and naturalistic actingelevate this above a typical POW escape film, but it's the deeplythematic message that really pushes it over the top. All of thecharacters are three-dimensional, flawed human beings, and the realvillain of the work is war. Each of the three main parts of thenarrative builds on the previous one, adding to the themes andfurthering the notions about class similarities across warring nations.Not the best French film ever made, but certainly right up there.
belmondomore (08 May 2013)
In the film "La Grande Illusion" World War I is only depicted as anunderlying force in the storyline. There are no scenes of actualbattle, and no dialogue about what the purpose of the war is. There arethree main characters in the film: the aristocrat Captain De Boeldieu,the commoner mechanic Lieutenant Marechal, and the upper/middle-classLieutenant Rosenthal. The primary focus of the film is on theirpersonal relationships and situation. When the war does come into viewfor the characters it is only when one side is celebrating a victorywhile hearing distant news of the events unfolding. The film conveysthat even the elite cannot escape war, and that the ways of life andclass divisions throughout the world differ very little. In the prisoncamps people from of all classes come together. The only thing thatreally separates any of the different people is the fact theircountries are at war with one another. When Captain De Boeldieu stagesa diversion to help the two lower-class Lieutenants escape from theprison the German official seems shocked that Captain De Boeldieu wouldeven want to leave seeing as how they relate in the fact they both comefrom an aristocratic background. "La Grande Illusion" doesn't present adefinite message against war or against anything. It is fair to all itscharacters whether they are German, French, upper-class, lower class,et cetera. The film doesn't focus on a particular perspective; itfollows all its characters with a non-judgmental sympathy. There are novillains or heroes in the film, and all the characters are able torelate on some level because of the universality of the war. Eventhough the people may speak a different language, or otherwise havelived a completely different way of life before the war because of thewar they are brought together and now have the same concerns and anewly developed respect for one another. An upper-class French Captainis willing to die to help two non-aristocratic French Lieutenantsescape from the German prison camp and the French Captain is able toforgive the German official who shoots him. A German woman helps thetwo French Lieutenants hide from the German search parties sent lookingto kill or recapture them and the three form a close relationshipdespite the fact they cannot completely speak one another's language.The upper/middle class Lieutenant Rosenthal shares the food packagessent by his family with the other lower-class prisoners. The Frenchinvite the Germans to a theatrical performance they are putting ondespite the fact that there is news of an important advance made by theGerman army against the French. Through all the barriers of class,nationality, and language the characters can all relate to one another,and they all share a respect for one another. It can be assumed thatthe reason for the war was the fact that those barriers existed andwere taken seriously in the first place. Each individual doesn'tnecessarily have a place in the broad-scope of World War I, but eachcharacter does have their own struggle with the situation the war hasput them in, and to survive they learn stop separating themselves fromothers based on the sort of divisions that started the war to beginwith. Despite this message ironically in the end Marechal and Rosenthalsurvive being within sight of the German military looking to kill themby simply crossing the non-distinct artificial boarder to the neutralterritory of Sweden.
Donald J. Lamb (07 May 2013)
It is a wonder to see a film from the 1930's so definite in its view andopinions, yet so touching and revelatory. Jean Renoir's GRAND ILLUSION isafilm of great importance, one that improves with each viewing. Havingjustfinished the picture again for the first time in some 7 years, I wasstruckby its freshness. It is an Anti-War film set during World War I that issomething to watch. It demands intense viewing.This is a French work of art by the great Renoir, who would make his mostacclaimed film, RULES OF THE GAME, two years later. If you ask me, GRANDILLUSION is the superior pic and holds up immeasurably better. The smalldoses of humor and original characters in this film foresee the classic"shooting party" of RULES OF THE GAME. With this movie, Renoir usesprisoners-of-war and the ludicrous element of war so prevalent in early20thCentury Europe and merges them into a film not unlike a play (an extremelywell-written play). The viewer has no illusions as to whether or not awaris happening. We happen not to see any battles or gunplay, rather, thehuman element between men and women who are not so different no mattertheirethnicity.Renoir's camera is an incredible tool used throughout. He probes thecharacters at the various prison camps with some smooth dolly shots andbrilliant use of focus and pull-backs. It seems like an extension of hishand, much like his father's paintings. One striking scene has some wearysoldiers singing the French "Las Marseilles" after getting third handknowledge of a French victory over their German captors. Any scene withErich von Stroheim is interesting because he is human and not somemindlessGerman dictator so many people would come to know at the time of thefilm'srelease. He is a broken man, scarred by war and looking to gain a friendinthe enemy. This is rare.As far as prison camp films go, these guys seem to have it easy, howeverthefact that they are officers gives us some explanation. The story-lineeffectively moves from escape attempts to human realization of thesituationthey are in. Parts of it reminded me of STALAG 17, Billy Wilder's 1953classic no doubt inspired by GRAND ILLUSION. This is Wilder's filmwithoutthe Hollywood touch, realist and sometimes drab. Abel Gance's J'ACCUSEwould follow a year later. If you want to see some anti-WWI films withtwocompletely opposite methods of warning beneath the surface, see these twoflicks back to back.The illusion of reality is shattered by war, Renoir is telling us. Ifonlyit could be as simple as those amazing shots of the countryside frominsidethe German woman's house: a breathtaking, simple look at a peaceful scenethe way it should be.RATING: ***1/2
jotix100 (07 May 2013)
Jean Renoir was a man behind this masterpiece of the French cinema. Itstands as an anti-war document by itself. The incredible DVD versionlooks as great today, perhaps, as when the original film was released.The screen play by M. Renoir and Charles Spaak was the original model,which many other films that came later, copied and profited from."La Grande Illusion" presents us a group of men that come togetherbecause of the war. If there were no war, none of these men would havemet, let alone, would ever have crossed paths in real life. The topbrass in the European armies were headed by the aristocracy. These richclasses only intermingled with their peers; they only gave orders totheir subordinates. WWII changed all that!M. Renoir gets excellent acting from the three principals. Jean Gabin,as Lt. Marechal, shows why he was one of France's best actors. PierreFresnay, the aristocratic French Capt. Boeldieu, and Erich VonStroheim, as Capt. Von Rauffenstein, his German counterpart, areamazing in the film.Together with "The Rules of the Game", this film will always be one ofthe most cherished French films of all time.
Cristi_Ciopron (07 May 2013)
For obvious reasons, here is the best place to talk about Fresnay, DitaParlo and StroheimÂas they all give here extraordinarily goodperformances. And Dalio & Gabin do very skilled roles.Maybe the first thing one notes is the approach of equilibrium andhumane openness and healthy sympathy and wisdom and lack of resentment.This delights and offers a dependable basis for the palette of Renoir'sand his actors' art. It gives the movie its entirely satisfyingcharacter.The ability of working simultaneously with so many characters,themselves so different and diverse, is remarkable. The narration isequiangular and, in its inner structure, so dependable. Many scenesplay like comedy, and the contrast of the characters (Fresnay/Gabin,Stroheim/Dalio,etc.) is also satisfying. Well written, even better directed, filmed and scoredÂand even betterplayed by its several firstÂclass actors.The film is unusually well written, and I will select here but a fewscenes. Take, for example, that with the prisoners caressing thefeminine objectsÂthe stockings, and how aroused are by the touch ofthat stockings. And when one of them appears disguised, his comradesdon't laugh but are rather disturbed by this feminine shape of theirfellow.Stroheim was the master of the largerÂthanÂlife and the thrillingextraordinary. He needed to surprise his audience. His role is socompact and so finely modulated, and Stroheim's physical appearance wasso striking and unusual, that each Stroheim scene is a feast.Fresnay's role is not very well written; Dita Parlo's is small, butwell written. And the best written roles are those of Stroheim andGabin.Fresnay and Stroheim were masters of the sensational beauty in theinterpretative artÂthere is something sensuous, refined, almostvoluptuous, and intensely thrilling in their rolesÂa vibration, avirile and highly distinguished emotion. Stroheim was, perhaps, evenbetter than Fresnay; but,as I already said, his role is also the bestwritten one, Stroheim had this advantage. There isÂfrom Fresnay,Stroheim, Dita Parlo, DalioÂsuch an intense appetite for their rolesthat it's almost tangible. I guess I've seen actresses more beautiful than Dita Parlo. Maybe. Butnone of them was more stunningly beautiful than Dita Parlo in The GrandIllusion . She is a country woman, and she doesn't betray her role, andshe is concomitantly one of the sexiest female movie characters ever.Allow me one paragraph about the technical aspects, very importantÂthegood use that Renoir makes of the deep focus. In fact, he is widelyfamous as one of the four artists of the deep focus. See also the greatensemble compositions, when one can watch the simultaneous behaviors ofthe men in the group of French prisoners.Renoir's art was one of wise austerity here. It wasn't always likethisÂbut here, in this particular film ,it isÂwise, tactful, balancedausterity. Relatively little use of music. On the other hand, themusic, when used, is very interesting. The film is also notable foranother two aspectsÂits sense of dreamÂits dream note, as an almostsecret but magically obvious modulation , and also its contemplativetone (not content);--and the Renoirian device of the film's frame: theshowÂinÂshow (here, the stage of the prisoners' show). The sense ofdream is very efficacious. Hence the amazing beauty of some scenes, andalso the firmness of the touch.The illusion is Gabin's hope that the wars will be abolished. Thisexplains his tenacity. On the other hand, notice that he is notidealized, but kept within the coordinates of his social condition.
Eric Stewart (04 May 2013)
In the old European order, pre-WWI, one nation's aristocracy made war onanother's not out of love for king and country or hatred for the enemy, butout of a sense of honor and duty. War was what they did, these aristocratsof l'ancien regime. Their castles in the air, their noble worldview, theirtime-honored way--all would crumble, as they very well knew, if the linebetween the rabble and themselves were allowed to continue to blur. Themasses had new and different loyalties."La Grande Illusion" in 1914 was the hope that that old order could bepreserved in the face of surging democracy and noveau-riche power. JeanRenoir's film presents us with an irony: the martial elites of France andGermany needed the war to vouchsafe their very identities, and yet thatconflict would prove their undoing. Whatever side won, the hoi polloi wouldgain the upper hand.Restored from its original camera negative, the 1937 French film now on DVDsparkles like new. The restoration lets us see that nothing is dated aboutthis work of genius, even if its POW-camp situations today seem stock andits characters stereotypes of nationality and class. The fine acting, thedeft pacing, and the fluid camerawork make for a film that could have beenproduced last year. The whispered subtext, the nuanced conflicts, and theironic complexity make for a film that is timeless.The subtext is the eternal tension between "in the air" and "on theground,""on high" and "here below," "from a distance" and "up close and personal."From a distance, war is no more rancorous than a chess game, with nationalboundaries as artificial as the squares on a chessboard. Up close andpersonal, war separates humans from their lives and aspirations, loversfromtheir beloveds.The old elites loved nothing but their class and its accoutrements. It waspeasant stock and noveau riche who belted out national anthems and honoredthe borders which in wartime could sever lover from lover but,paradoxically, also shield prison-camp escapees who made it across them tosanctuary. Renoir's genius was that he could show that an emergent neworder, manifestly better on the ground, comes at a steep price, tragically,in the air.
Tim Kidner (03 May 2013)
The accolade for the greatest anti-war film ever made, must still go toLewis Milestone's 1930 'All Quiet On the Western Front', though beingan American film, feels very European. It's emotive depth and utterdespair amongst the trenches reaches far and deep into the souls ofeverybody who watches it.Le Grande Illusion, though, always feels like a French farce, albeit avery good one. The script is its master-stroke, as is thecharacterisation of its lead players. I realise that this tongue-in-cheek laugh-in-the face of adversity is its trump card and it generallydoes a very good job of keeping the story flowing, as it's nearly twohours long.Erich von Stroheim, as he did also in Howard Hughes' "Hell's Angels"plays the archetypal German high-officer - his monocled Nosferatu-looksfitting every conceivable stereotype of what such an image of evilshould look like. Jean Gabin, of course, known to us who love our(mostly) later French classics is reassuringly amiable and a portrayalof a decent, ordinary Frenchman should be like - rather like our JohnMills would do 'us'.Maybe I have a problem with this film, in that it all bumbles along sonicely, never gets too heavy and that it's all too easy to simply notthink too much, or too deeply about it. I'm on my fourth play now, inas many years, yet I still prefer Kubrick's 'Paths Of Glory', for itsreal shock of anti-war, how it grips the viewer like a vice, itsclaustrophobia hanging heavy, like a dose of flu. I also get strangehints of Billy Wilder's 'Stalag 17' - no-one has termed that ananti-war film yet it carries the same camaraderie and unificationacross the social classes (though not as wide; more racial probably)along with Wilder's infamous satirical wit.Like another reviewer has said, perhaps Renoir's film has lost itssting through time - how horribly ironic it must have been for Frenchcinema goers to find that these horrors should test them again, justtwo years later. That is, perhaps the Grande Illusion, theridiculousness and futility of it all.
JoeytheBrit (30 April 2013)
Spoilers.Films like La Grande illusion have a lot to live up to. Widelyacknowledged as a timeless classic, it's approached by the first-timeviewer with a high level of expectation. As I watched the first twentyminutes or so I began to doubt the opinions of those who profess toknow about such things. The forced, broad humour of the prisoners ofwar was off-putting and out of place. The comical yet annoying littleFrench man who nearly suffocates in a tunnel would no doubt havereceived a few clouts within days of arriving at the camp if he livedin the real world instead of enjoying the tolerant good humour of hisfellow prisoners.But once the prisoners are separated and moved on (on the very day theyplan to leave by the tunnel they have been digging for months) and thefilm concentrates more on the working class Marechal (Jean Gabin) andaristocratic Bourdieu, it seems to find itself. The war has displacedthese prisoners Â they play childish games as they watch childrentraining to be soldiers Â and the film almost seems to be taking themthrough a new life, one which they must grow and mature into. They playfoolish pranks, dress up in costumes, undergo a kind of homo-eroticbonding as they observe how women's hair has grown so short that it islike sleeping with a boy Â before all conversation and activity isstopped by the sight of a young comrade wandering around in women'sclothing he has acquired for a stage show.Marechal and Bourdieu are sent to a castle prison presided over by aGerman officer they have encountered before. The officer is played byErich von Stroheim, and, in an understated performance, he speaks hislines with care. He too is a casualty of war, no longer able to flybecause of injuries to his spine which leave him with his neck in apermanent brace. His character identifies with the aristocraticBourdieu: they know the same people, and have possibly slept with thesame woman. It's at this point that class distinction comes to thefore. Renoir emphasises the differences in class to illustrate the factthat, while we may not all be the same, war influences all our lives.'The rich and noble glorify death in service,' one of the officersopines, 'but for the lower classes it's a tragedy.' Marechal andRosenthal, a Jewish prisoner, escape from the castle and are offeredrefuge by a German widow. The German, the Jew and the Frenchman live inharmony, enjoying a blissful Christmas together. All the men in herlife Â her husband and brothers Â have been taken by the war, all ofthem killed in battles that were great victories for Germany. By nowthe film has dropped all pretence of humour and reaches Â mostlysuccessfully Â for something more profound. War inevitably separatesthis happy trinity (plus cute child), and Marechal's departure, withouttears or overt sentiment, is almost devastating in its subtlety andgrace.By the time the film was over the near two-hour running time had passedin a blur. Our heroes make it safely to Switzerland, but Renoir iscareful to avoid any hint of triumph; we see only two tiny figurestrudging through the snow, watched by a troop of German soldiers whorefrain from firing because their quarry has passed a border thatRosenthal has earlier declared to be meaningless. 'Borders areman-made,' he says, 'Nature couldn't care less.'
rohmerite (30 April 2013)
Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion is a film that certainly requiresseeing more than once and special attention should be paid to certainscenes which, the first time around, might easily be neglected. Forinstance:- Marechal's solitary confinement. When Jean Gabin is imprisoned for apresumed escape attempt and begins to lose his bearings in hisisolation, his gentle German guard, Arthur, hands him a harmonica inthe hopes that it will keep him occupied. After closing the cell door,Arthur leans in to hear whether Marechal will use the instrument, andupon hearing several notes played, contentedly closes the peephole,hoping he has done his bit to save his ward's sanity. This scene is sosimple and yet heartbreaking; the basic gesture of one person reachingout to another to lessen his anguish is incredibly poignant.- The musical rehearsal. When one of the younger soldiers dresses indrag during rehearsal for the prison camp musical (it almost seems likethey are in summer camp!), the camera lingers on how the rest of thesoldiers, frozen, stare at his feminine apparition, while he mutters,"C'est drole, c'est drole." Yes, the strangeness of men isolated fromwomen and confronted with this ersatz woman is funny, but in adisturbing as well as amusing way. The scene emphasizes the overallunnaturalness to war's destruction of real family units. - The Christmas scene. When Rosenthal and Marechal join with the German(Austrian?)woman who has taken them in during their escape to celebrateChristmas with her young daughter, the peacefulness and the beauty ofthe most natural family scene in the story shine out. It is especiallytouching since we know that the two French soldiers are only temporarystand-ins for the husband and brothers that the woman has lost duringprevious wars. Her isolation, like Gabin's in his imprisonment, hasbecome unbearable to her, and her relief at the companionship of theprisoners of war is immense but frail. Rosenthal's comment that theinfant Jesus in the creche in their kitchen is a "long-ago relation" isironic and heartbreaking given the extreme anti-Semitism lying ahead inthe next world war.
poe426 (27 April 2013)
Granted, Jean Renoir had yet to experience the long Nazi nacht to come(as his disclaimer on the Criterion disc makes perfectly clear), but,to see an all-singing, all-dancing pro-war film made just prior to sameis more than a little mind-boggling. "I owe these riches to themisfortunes of war," one of the Upper Crust boasts early on. As well hemight: in addition to great accommodations (a castle), there's caviarand vodka and fine clothes (including spit-and-polished uniforms andjackboots); all pilfered from the dead. "Where there are Germans, thereis order." Uh-huh... Erich Von Stroheim is hilarious as Herr Hermannthe Humane. "I beg you," he pleads with an escaping prisoner: "Comedown!" When the prisoner refuses, Stroheim reluctantly caps him."Forgive me," he asks the wounded man: "I aimed at your legs." "It wasfive hundred feet, with poor visibility," the all-too-forgivingrecaptured prisoner replies: "Besides, I was running..." "Please, noexcuses," Stroheim persists with a clearly pained expression: "I wasclumsy." This is just one exchange among many that make THE GRANDDELUSION rife for ribbing. (One can only imagine what the crew ofMYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 could make of this one...) Renoir'scontention is that "The war of 1914 was almost a war of gentlemen."When escapee Gabin and his buddy, in plain sight of their Germanpursuers, are allowed to cross a mythical border into Switzerland, onealmost expects them to stop and turn and wave. Perhaps Renoir neverheard about strafing or machinegun nests or poison gas. This moviecertainly suggests as much.
btillman63 (27 April 2013)
Excellent casting and some fine performances. But the editing isprobably the film's greatest flaw, especially early on in shifting fromthe French squadron to the German squadron; no transitions at all. Justplain amateurish: a grade school student with a film splicer could havedone as well. Those easily avoidable flaws reduce my rating to a 7.GOOF: why oh why does the floral wreath to a fallen French flier havethe date "March 12, 1914." The film is set in 1916, but the wreath'sdate was five months before the war began! GOOF: Stroheim made the greatest pistol shot in movie history: a movingman, in the dark, at 150 meters. But the French victim indicates he'shit in the forearm--certainly not a fatal wound.
Review total: 20, showing from 1 to 20