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Class in Film

Page history last edited by Air Dupaix 14 years, 3 months ago

 What is class?

 Class: People having the same social, economic, or educational status. There has always been distinctions between those who have, and those who have not. Competition for resources originally set up this dynamic, but it has evolved into what it is today.[1]

Moviesare and have always been a powerful tool for propaganda. From racial stereo-types such as Blackface, to the oppression of the underprivileged in: The Battleship Potemkin.


Let's look at the issues of social class in The Grand Illusion directed by Jean Renoir, and view his ideaology in film.


The Grand Illusion

This movie takes a look at the different social classes of Europe during WWI.  The perspective of the film, which is regarded by critics and film historians as one of the masterpieces in French film,  is generously humanistic to its characters of various nationalities.



There are two main aristocrats in this film, de Boeldieu, and von Rauffenstein, they are represented as very worldly and civilized well educated shown by their ability to speak several languages. Lapsing into English at times when they do not want to be over heard by their counterparts. Both men feel that they have more in common with each other because they have the same values and social experience. (2).


Renoir touches briefly on the subject of anti-semitism with his character Rosenthal. he is the wealthy son of a banking family who is Jewish. Rosenthal is shown as a compassionate human across all lines of class. He shares his food with everyone even though he is from a wealthy family. It is thought that this character was developed to counter the rising anti-Jewish campaign that was thriving in Germany. (2).


In contrast to the aristocrats Renoir casts the lower-class members as having little in common. Although they have different interests they become friends because of what they all have in common.

The final comparison of the social classes comes when Boeldieu distracts the guards, by singing and dancing while some of the lower-class escape.


Social Implications:

The role of the aristocracy is shown in this film to be deteriorating. One is given to believe that a new emerging more equal social order is rising. Renoir shows a divergent train of thought between the two aristocrats, von Rauffenstein laments the loss of high society and their way of life. At the same time de Boeldieu accepts the decline as inevitable and as a positive improvement. After Rauffenstein shoots Boeldieu toward the end of the film Boeldieu states, he has pity for Rauffenstein because he must remain and find his way in the new social order, where traditions and background will be obsolete.(2).


Another observation of the class discrepancy is the portrayal of the African prisoner, who appears in the second camp. No one even seems to see him. He is invisible which is confirmed when he speaks and no one speaks back.


Symbolically this film speaks to many grand illusions the war to end all wars, the differences in social class and ethnicity. this includes the Frenchmen who upon their escape vow to return to the front lines. As well as the widow who will wait for her lover to return.




Works Consulted

     [1] wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

     [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Illusion_(film): retrieved Sept. 5, 2009


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