fight club (1999)
dir. david fincher
dir. david fincher
Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as Detectives David Mills and William Somerset in Se7en
↳ It’s like he sent me exactly where I needed to be, and to who I needed to be with.
The Goldfinch (2019) dir. John Crowley
Marriage Story, dir. Noah Baumbach, 2019.
Marriage story (2019)
Ford v Ferrari, dir. James Mangold (2019)
The Blue Lagoon (1980) dir. Randal Kleiser
Volcano (Roman Bondarchuk, 2018)
RT @Fwrdnanda: 2020 já ta logo aí e vai lançar maria e joão: o conto das bruxas
mal posso esperar
#Tenet. De #ChristopherNolan.
#tenetmovie #tenet2020 #robertpattinson #elizabethdebicki #aarontaylorjohnson #kennethbranagh #michaelcaine #clémencepoésy #himeshpatel #andrewhoward #johndavidwashington
#movies #film #cine #cinema #peliculas #panama #pty #507 #panamacity #panama507 #instapanama (en Panama City, Panama)
Jean Renoir’s monumental 1937 cinematic masterpiece La Grand Illusion has always been a favourite of mine ever since my grandfather - a highly decorated military veteran himself - first brought the classic war film to my attention over a family Christmas.
It’s easy to gush about Renoir’s World War One classic. It won at the Venice Film Festival upon release and was the first foreign language film to be nominated for an Oscar - despite the novelty of seeing and hearing the British, French and German officers speaking their own native tongues. The critical reception and accolades aside, La Grand Illusion is simply an extraordinarily well-made film that makes a serious commentary on the condition of Europe and examines common values and decency under the stress of war - the ability in all of us to act with respect and warmth towards those with whom we share bonds stronger and deeper than national boundaries and political divisions.
The “grand illusion” of Jean Renoir’s great French film referred originally to
the British author Norman Angell’s belief that the supposed financial
advantage of war is a falsehood. For Renoir - himself a veteran of the World War One trenches - this illusion evolves into
something more complex and various, and so does its tragic and ironic
There are only two references to the title but both are pertinent. Once
when a French soldier exclaims ‘what an illusion,’ when a comrade says
that the war will be over before they have time to escape from military
prison, and again when he describes the end of all wars as an illusion.
The legendary Eric Von Stroheim is Captain Von
Rauffenstein, an aristocrat and
German PoW camp commander in the first world war, ramrod-straight in a
uniform with white gloves that conceal horrendous burns from when he was
shot down in combat. He pursues an elaborately civilised policy of
martial respect for his distinguished prisoner Captain de Boeldieu
(Pierre Fresnay) - a suave French aristocrat in his own right. But
Rauffenstein is archly disdainful of Boeldieu’s more plebeian
comrades Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) and the boisterous working class
Maréchal, played with luminous masculinity by Jean
the Frenchman knows and the German won’t admit is that the new world belongs to
commoners. It changed hands when the gentlemen of Europe declared war. And the
“grand illusion” of Renoir’s title is the notion that the upper classes
somehow stand above war. The German cannot believe that his prisoners, whom he
treats almost as guests, would try to escape. After all, they have given their
word not to.
“Neither you nor I can stop the march of time,” the captured French aristocrat Capt. de Boieldieu tells the German prison camp commandant, Von Rauffenstein. A little later, distracting the guards during an escape of others from the high-security German fortress, the Frenchman forces the German to shoot him, reluctantly, and they have a final deathbed exchange. `” didn’t know a bullet in the stomach hurt so much,” he tells the German. “I aimed at your legs,” says the German, near tears. And a little later he says: "For a commoner, dying in a war is a tragedy. But for you and I - it’s a good way out.”
For me one the things that hit me is how much the film underlies the separation of classes, which is the second major
concern of the film. Indeed, the characters provide a microcosm of
the European class system in the early twentieth century.
It is interesting to note that not everyone
in the film is limited by the barriers of his mother tongue. The
two aristocratic officers, von Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu, as
well as the scholar, Demolder, can speak or understand several
languages other than their own. The Jewish officer, Rosenthal, who
has relatives on both sides of the front, can speak German. With
the possible exception of Rosenthal, however, the linguistic
skills of these characters are ineffectual instruments of human
understanding. The reasons are various and have mostly to do with
Demolder, the Greek professor, is the object of much
ridicule. To the aristocrats he is never more than a subject of
minor amusement. They ignore him, for instance, when he gawks like
an undergraduate art history student at the Medieval
fortress of Wintersborn, where they are being held prisoner. Even
the middle class Marechal parodies him at one point, exclaiming
that the castle is ``Fourteenth century,” to which Boeldieu
replies wittily, “Pure Gothic.” Ironically, the scene was actually
shot in a chateau built by Wilhelm II.
Demolder’s books, in which no one
else is the least bit interested, disturb Boeldieu’s
cards. Boeldieu remarks “coldly” that Demolder’s dictionaries are
going to be in his way. Demolder is in the process of translating
Pindar, whom he considers “the greatest of the Greek poets.” We
are left in no doubt, however, that the undertaking will not be as
momentous as Demolder would like to think. Rauffenstein’s
contemptuous comment upon learning of Demolder’s activity is:
“Poor old Pindar!”
Boeldieu says that Demolder has “the soul of a
Although Demolder has a sentimental worship of
books (he is incensed when the Russians set their books on fire)
and studies a foreign language, his interests are ineffectual. The
student of a “dead language,” he offers no help in bridging the
language barrier between the French and Germans.
The aristocrats, Boeldieu and Rauffenstein, might effect such
a bridge between the nationalities, but they are prevented from
doing so by the duties and isolation of their class. They are
separated from their fellow officers as much as anything by
Boeldieu, for instance, is isolated by a certain class
dialect as well as what one might call his ideolect. Throughout
the film, he speaks in a witty, formal, epigrammatic style typical
of the aristocracy. At Hallbach, noticing the young German
soldiers drilling while the prisoners of war prepare their play,
he comments: “On one side, children playing at soldiers. On the
other, soldiers playing at children.” The conversation at
Wintersborn is distinguished by his witty banter with
Rauffenstein. When the latter has finished showing his new
prisoners around the fortress, Boeldieu remarks: “It was very
pleasant of you, sir, to have shown us around your estate.” The
other French officers cannot or are not allowed thus to “pull off”
their attempts at wit. Marechal’s amusing joke about Maxim’s does
not go over with Rauffenstein.
Boeldieu’s formal style leaves his
fellows cool to him and indeed suspicious of his motives. Marechal
himself, who must “explain” Boeldieu to the others, notes at one
point that “he’s a good bloke, but you can’t let yourself go with
him, you can’t feel free…. A different sort of education…. If
ever you [Rosenthal] and I found ourselves in a bad spot, we’d
just be a couple of poor down-and-outs, but him, he’d always be
Monsieur de Boeldieu.”
Later in the film, when the bourgeois
Marechal, aware of Boeldieu’s impending sacrifice, attempts a
deeper level of friendliness, Boeldieu puts him off: “I’m not
doing anything for you personally. That excuses us from the danger
of getting emotional.” When Marechal questions Boeldieu’s
continued use of the formal “vous” after eighteen months
together, Boeldieu responds: “I say vous to my mother and my
Rauffenstein is similarly isolated from his fellow officers by class and language. His preferred languages seem to be French and English, and when he does speak German his voice takes on an unaccustomed and alien rasp. His junior officers are also of the middle class, and they consider him something of a lunatic for what is to them eccentric behavior. Rauffenstein’s careful cultivation of the geranium, “the only flower in the castle,” is ridiculed by his martinet of a junior officer, a former headmaster who claims to “know how to keep that gang of devils [the prisoners] in their place.” Interestingly, in the moving scene of Boeldieu’s death, Rauffenstein sacrifices this last “flower of the aristocracy.”
Boeldieu and Rauffenstein, isolated from their fellow
officers, have the most in common with each other, but ultimately
they are separated by something else they have in common: their
patriotic duties as aristocratic career officers. Rauffenstein
seems to regret this more than Boeldieu and is keener to maintain
their priviledged intimacy. To effect this intimacy he makes
continual use of the English language.
A language common to the
aristocracy of Europe, English allows Rauffenstein to distinguish
himself and Boeldieu from the others, in effect to talk over their
heads. It becomes their special language. In the early banquet
scene, Rauffenstein, recognizing Boeldieu’s name, presumes his
knowledge of English. Sesonske has pointed out that “Rauffenstein
switches from French to English without question or explanation,
knowing that a `de Boeldieu’ will of course understand,” whereas
“Marechal is surprised to find his German neighbor speaking French
and seeks an explanation.”
In a later scene at Wintersborn,
Rauffenstein shows off his twenty-five Maxim machine-guns to
Boeldieu and the others. Marechal attempts to imitate Boeldieu’s
witty style: “Why, of course, sir. Personally, I prefer the
restaurant…” The response of the two aristocrats to this
infringement on their stylistic territory is interesting. Boeldieu,
at whose expense the joke is made, accepts it with a benign
resignation, as a master does a pupil’s imitations: “Touché.”
Rauffenstein, on the other hand, will not condescend to the humor
of an inferior. He shifts immediately to English, talking as he
knows over the heads of the others: “I used to know a pretty girl
at Maxim’s… back in 1913. Her name was Fifi.” Boeldieu responds
also in English: “So did I.”
Rauffenstein’s aristocratic snub recalls, as he likes to do, a nostalgic time before the war when aristocratic career officers did not have to accept middle class “officers” such as Marechal and Rosenthal as in any sense their equals.
Both Rauffenstein and Boeldieu know, however, that the old
European aristocrats, along with the peculiar form of
international understanding they possessed, are a dying breed, cut
off from their own lower classes and no longer in control of
events. In a private conversation in Rauffenstein’s quarters,
again punctuated with English phrases, they discuss this situation
Rauffenstein admits his distaste for his present
position as commandant. “I was a fighting man and, now, I am a
bureaucrat, a policeman. It is the only way left for me to try and
serve my country.” When Boeldieu asks him why he made an exception
in inviting him to his quarters, Rauffenstein responds
disdainfully: “You call Marechal and Rosenthal… officers?”
Whatever else the war brings, “it will be the end of the
Rauffensteins and the Boeldieus.”
To Rauffenstein, such middle class soldiers are “the charming legacy of the French Revolution.” Boeldieu comments that “perhaps there is no more need for us.” Rauffenstein immediately asks: “And don’t you find that is a pity?” Boeldieu responds, less certainly: “Perhaps.” Boeldieu’s scepticism suggests that if there is to be a solution to the problem of lack of international understanding, it will not come from an international aristocracy with an exclusive language.
Indeed, this point is dramatised in the final exchange of English between the two men. When Boeldieu devises a plan of escape for Marechal and Rosenthal, he reserves for himself the role of creating a diversion. While all the prisoners except Marechal and Rosenthal assemble for a general roll call, Boeldieu climbs the watch-tower and plays the tune, “Petit Navire,” on a flute (an instrument he claimed earlier to have hated). He distracts the Germans long enough for his middle class comrades to effect their escape. When Rauffenstein learns of Boeldieu’s dangerous escapade, he makes a final personal appeal to Boeldieu to surrender. Interestingly, the appeal is in English, unintelligible to his own men and the various prisoners.
Rauffenstein in English: Boeldieu, have you really gone insane?
Boeldieu in English: I’m perfectly sane.
Rauffenstein in English: Boeldieu, you understand that if you do not obey at once and come down, I shall have to shoot…. I dread to do that. I beg you… man to man, come back.
Boeldieu in English: It’s damn nice of you, Rauffenstein, but it’s impossible.
At this point, Rauffenstein is forced to shoot Boeldieu, and only
afterward learns that Marechal and Rosenthal have escaped. To
himself in English (in a language he can now use only with
himself) he mutters, “so that is why,” and suddenly shifting to
a harsh German, orders the dogs called out to search for the
escapees. In the end, the mutual intelligibility of the
aristocrats is overcome by their intense sense of divergent duties.
As Boeldieu comments on his deathbed when Rauffenstein begs his
forgiveness, “I would have done the same thing. French or
German… duty is duty.” However moving the scenes with the two
aristocrats may be, thay cannot offer a solution to the problem of
human understanding that the film poses. They represent rather a
If there is to be such a solution, Renoir seems to tell us, it must come from the middle class, from the Marechals and Rosenthals and Elsas of Europe. Accordingly, these characters dominate the film’s final scenes.
La Grand Illusion’s most basic contributions to cinema include a
series of well-followed tropes used in later prison escape films. Hiding
their escape hole under floorboards beneath a bunk, the men tie a rope
to a single mole digging the passage deeper. Air flows to him through a
tube of cans, and a string attaches to a warning tin that he pulls to
sound his readiness for relief. The excess earth is stored in small bags
and emptied from under their pants during their faux gardening
activities. Later escape-centric films such as Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption (1994), John Sturges’ The Great Escape (1963), and Le Trou (1960) by Jacques Becker (himself the assistant director on Grand Illusion)
replicate aspects of the escape procedure established in Renoir’s film.
In originating tropes of a war or escape movie it was careful to avoid cliches of its own. La Grand Illusion features no “war is Hell” scenes of grisly trench warfare that convey the chaotic bloody truth of battle. Neither melodrama nor jingoism have roles in Renoir’s narrative. He even carefully resists all clichés about patriotism, as well as clichés regarding his own pacifist aims. Avoiding strong subjective illustrations, Renoir’s film remains politically impartial, even while he makes humanist indictments and remains a jealous disciple of his homeland.
It’s not then a movie about a prison
escape. It dwells on the conflicts among
men. The prison camps show the entire national community in a bubble.
Ideas such as nationalism, class, and race create the conflict between
the prisoners; however, at the same time, they bring people together.
It’s also a meditation on the collapse
of the old order of European civilisation. Perhaps that was always a
sentimental upper class illusion, the notion that gentlemen on both sides of
the lines subscribed to the same honourable code of behaviour. Whatever it was, it died in
the trenches of World War One. The idea that wars can be fought according to gentlemanly
rules is an illusion – like the belief that the 1914-1918 conflict was
the war to end all wars. As Plato said at the beginning of the birth pangs of European civlisation, ‘only the dead have seen the end of war’.