Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Movie Review - Au Revoir Les Enfants
Au Revoir Les Enfants is my first selection for the Orbis Terrarum film mini-challenge. It's the story of two schoolboys, one French and one Jewish, at a Catholic boarding school during WWII.
Julien is a young boy, probably 12 or 13, sent away by his mother from Paris to a boarding school in the country. He is sent away to keep him safe, and also probably out of the hair of his pretty mother. This year at school, three new boys have arrived, one of them named Jean, whose bed ends up right next to Julien. Julien and Jean start out butting heads, but eventually find out that they have more in common than not, and become friends.
Julien begins to suspect that Jean is not quite what he seems, based on a few small pieces of evidence he quietly accumulates. He is also more and more aware of the Nazi presence in France, and the affect that can have on his own life. When members of the Gestapo enter his school, looking for Jewish children, Julien's brief, impulsive action leads to the arrest of three students, including Jean, as well as the school principle. It is at that moment that we see Julien finally put together all the pieces of Jean's story - unfortunately, it is too late.
This is a quiet movie, dealing with the day-to-day life of young men in a boarding school, as they study and play, and take shelter from air raids, and observe the soldiers in their midst. There isn't a lot of action, apart from the daily life of the school. No big shootouts, no loud, messy raids - just two boys, learning to become friends, and dealing with the realities of the life they are given to lead. It is based on actual events that happened in director Louis Malle's life - it is plain those events still haunt him, to have prompted him to make this quietly heartbreaking movie.
I would recommend it - it's a small window into a part of history that might be easy to forget. You might need to have a little patience with it, but I don't think you will soon get it out of your head.