Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. France, 1937. Réalisation d’art cinématographique. Screenplay by Charles Spaak, Jean Renoir. Cinematography by Christian Matras. Produced by Albert Pinkovitch, Frank Rollmer. Music by Joseph Kosma. Production Design by Eugène Lourié. Costume Design by Rene Decrais. Film Editing by Marthe Huguet, Marguerite Renoir. Podcasts: My Criterions. Academy Awards 1938.
One of the most awe-inspiring war movies ever made is this Jean Renoir classic, one of the few war films not to feature a single battle scene. Instead it concentrates on the personal relationships that go on between enemies in a seemingly ‘gentlemanly’ war: Frenchmen Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay are held prisoner in German POW camps, but their kindhearted overseer (Erich von Stroheim) still takes pains to go through all highly bred formalities with them. Dita Parlo is excellent in a supporting role as a German farmer who takes the two in after they escape from the camp, even though her own husband was killed on the battlefield by the French. Renoir’s marvelous film ably raises questions of just who is in the right when war is brought about, and humankind’s inability to completely lose their humanity when involved in them.