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The Grand Illusion

Page history last edited by Monty Risenhoover 10 years, 10 months ago


Social Commentary In "La Grande Illusion"

     This film occurs for the most part in two German POW camps. Renoir focuses mainly on the issues of relations between nations and social classes and hoe they are affected by war.(4). As well as men's illusions concerning the belief that WW I was, "the war to end all wars." In the first camp, in which we meet all the characters for the first time, we find out slowly through social interactions about the POW soldiers. The interactions between the men show that the social boundaries that may have been present and constricting outside of the war are no longer present in the POW camp. The films narrative form traces the demise of the aristocratic upper-class as well as the precarious survival of two of the French prisoner's who escape.(4) Their goal it to ultimately return to fight for their country,and end the war, which we know is also an illusion. One of the biggest accomplishments of this film is its ability to make a strong social commentary film while not making the topics that its trying to touch on all that obvious.(2)  Another note of interest is that this film, even though it is considered a war film shows no actual scenes of war.


Use of Language

    Watching this film with English subtitles can make catching this very subtle yet vitally important aspect of the script difficult. As the men talk and socialize, you can begin to notice what languages they are speaking in if you pay attention. These are of course French solders in a German POW camp. The upper classmen know upwards of three languages: French, German, and English. This is subtle way for the film to show class boundaries.(1) These class boundaries are a major force in this movie, it is also one of the many subjects the film discusses with the audience in a semi blunt fashion. The film is trying to make people understand how war "could" be as compared to what it is now, or at least what it was when the film was set, that being the 1930s.


Major theme(s)- other themes to be put in with major edits please!!

    Arguably the major point of this film is to differentiate what war should be and what it is. Looking at the characters as they try to escape from a POW camp could have been taken in a very dramatic way but this is not the case. They act with an almost childish immaturity about the ideas of breaking out. “Tennis courts are for tennis, Prisons are for escaping”(3). This further draws conclusions about what war should be. According to the film, war is meant to be a place were men prove themselves in battle and where all men, no matter the race, respect and honor one another. This is a big reason why the prisoners are met with such respect and kindness. They all hope and believe that the war will end soon when, as the audience, we know it will not. This dramatic irony can make the point of view of the prisoners rather depressing.


Camera Movment

This received its own page and is worth lookin at if you find this film intersting at all. To summarize the page the camera is often used as a character reacting with the action around it. The camera is also used heavily in long tracking shots that can be several minutes long in some cases.


A war film...without war?

Needless to say this film does not have any actually battles going on. Nearly no guns are ever fired and yet the feeling of war surrounds the characters in a very real way. The war is perpetually a topic of interest and in several places helps move the plot along from outside the setting itself. This leads to the useless feeling that the audience becomes accustomed to by the end of the film. The war is perpetual, no matter what happens, the war will always continue. This makes the characters belief that the end is always just around the corner, just THAT much more depressing. Although the movie is mostly playing with the ideas of the social aspects of war, it is also very interesting to note that most consider this to be a war film...without war. Quite the feat if you ask me.


Another major edit here?



(1) http://www.culturevulture.net/Movies/GrandIllusion.htm

(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Illusion_(film)

(3) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028950/

(4)Film Art: An Introduction. David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson 8th Ed McGraw-Hill New York, NY


Comments (4)

Sean Desilets said

at 10:24 pm on Sep 30, 2009

I actually think that graphic is a terrible representation of the film.

Sean Desilets said

at 10:23 pm on Sep 30, 2009

* Need a Renoir link here, and a link to the Bazin essay
* I think the issue might be less class*ism* and more class itself, and the shifting of class definitions. Given Renoir's leftist/populist leanings, it's interesting how affectionate he is toward the aristocrats in the film
* Judaism is obviously a big issue that should probably be addressed, especially given Renoir's very deliberate playing up of the Jewish character's role in response to European anti-semitism
* We definitely need clips for this film--camera movement, depth of field, use of mise-en-scene (in other words, the stuff William suggested)

Nykki Montano said

at 9:50 pm on Sep 30, 2009

Now if I could only edit and spell check comments... haha

William Palm said

at 1:42 pm on Sep 30, 2009

I swear Nykki waits for me to finsih and page and them SWOOPS in a edits it more me...i like this system. I don't even bother using spell check anymore.

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