Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
France/West Germany, 1987. Nouvelles Editions de Films, MK2 Productions, Stella Film,N.E.F. Filmproduktion und Vertriebs, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Soficas Investimages, Images Investissements, Sofica Créations, Rai 1. Scenario by Louis Malle. Cinematography by Renato Berta. Produced by Louis Malle. Production Design by Willy Holt. Costume Design by Corinne Jorry. Film Editing by Emmanuelle Castro.
Instant classic by the magnificent Louis Malle, based on his own memories of growing up in Nazi-occupied France. A young boy lives at his Catholic boarding school in the French countryside and becomes friends with a fellow student he later realizes is Jewish, having been hidden at the institution by its kindly Father.
Our young hero is going through his own difficulties with adolescence while at the same time discovering the realities of his very cruel world, during which a friendship blossoms with the boy whose secret fascinates him. Malle’s writing and direction don’t equal the youthful fervour of Murmur Of The Heart, nor is it as effective an observation of World War II France as Lacombe Lucien was, but the film is surprisingly subtle, beautifully working its way over you until an emotionally overwhelming conclusion.
The acting by a mostly nonprofessional cast is superb, and the photography is beautiful. Look for a gorgeous young Irène Jacob in one of her first films as the unbelievably patient piano teacher.
The Criterion Collection: #330
Academy Award Nominations: Best Original Screenplay; Best Foreign Language Film
European Film Award: Best European Screenwriter
Nominations: Best European Film; Best European Director (Louis Malle)
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film
Venice Film Festival Award: Golden Lion