Au revoir les enfants
I am reviewing a film which takes place in France during World War II. The occupation was a frightful time and should linger long in the hearts and very soul of the French nation.
After France was overrun by the Nazis, the nation was cut in two, part Occupied France and part Vichy. Vichy was presided over by the hero of Verdun, Marechal Petain.
"...Had he been a secular liberal like his successor, Charles de Gaulle, I'm quite certain that rather being condemned to death for collaboration, the founders of the Fifth French Republic would have merely characterised him as a good man who did what he could in impossible circumstances..."
This article does not seek to justify Vichy, nor does it seek to bring up old wounds. I seek to only review a film, the background of which the reader should be aware.
Au revoir les enfants is a film about a class of boys in a Carmelite school set in Vichy (I am led to this belief as a scene of the film portrays Vichy milice making a surprise identity check.)
A student, Julien Quentin befriends a new boy in the school called Jean Bonnet, who in reality is
Jean Kippelstein, a Jew. The priest at the school have been hiding Jewish boys at the school to prevent them from being rounded up by the milice and Nazis and sent to a concentration camp.
This is an excellent film. this is the story of sacrafice. I tis the story of the stuggles of the students to maintain an affected ignorance all the while knowing some of their classmates are Jewish boys in secret. Julien could not have known the horrors of the concentration camp yet knowing the Nazis wanted his friend Jean Bonnet was enough for him to resist, even if in a small way. This is the story of a short friendship, the type of which one can recall for the rest of ones life.
This is a true story based on the early life of writer and director Louis Malle, who experienced these events during the war. They left an indelible image on his soul and the viewer will come away marked as well.
The film is in French with English subtitles, which the mind quickly adapts to so that the flow of the film is not lost.
Fairwell to childhood. May we never suffer though times like those again.