At the height of World War I, the German ace aviator, Captain von Rauffenstein, shoots down the plane of the aristocratic French pilot, Captain de Boeldieu, and his co-pilot, the working-class civilian mechanic, Lieutenant Maréchal, during an air-reconnaissance mission. As the captured officers find themselves in the Hallbach POW camp for officers, they befriend the wealthy former Jewish banker, Lieutenant Rosenthal, and along with a handful of determined compatriots, they organise an escape. However, fate has other plans in store for them, and shortly before the implementation of the plan, they are transferred by train to the impregnable Wintersborn fortress-prison in Alsace, France, overseen by Rauffenstein himself. More and more, respect and appreciation bond von Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu. But, will this delicate relationship, and the grand illusion, stand in the way of breaking out?Written by
Although they were fully behind the production, the producers got nervous as shooting progressed and told Jean Renoir they had grave doubts about continuing with the production. So he halted photography long enough to edit some scenes that had already been shot, hoping to change their mind, and luckily, he succeeded. See more »
When Boeldieu is dead, Rauffenstein wants to close his eyes with his hand. When the hand of Rauffenstein gets close to Boeldieu, his eye moves.
However, watching the scene image by image there does not seem to be any eye movement not made by the hand. See more »
Jean Renoir's classic "La Grande Illusion" has something to recommend it to anyone - there is fine acting, directing, writing, and photography, and a story filled with memorable characters who are involved in action, suspense, and drama, with some comic parts and even, later in the film, some romance. All of it fits together perfectly to create a timeless and very satisfying experience.
The movie takes place during World War I, and is often considered an anti-war film, but the themes about humanity, relationships, loyalties, and identities are all timeless and go beyond any mere political statement. The interplay between persons of different nationalities and classes, thrown together by the war, leads to good drama and makes some profound points about human nature. The story primarily follows three Frenchmen who are taken prisoner by the Germans, showing us how they manage to deal with their confinement, and allowing us to watch their disappointments and their attempts to escape. The other main character is a German prison camp commander with whom they become friendly, raising complicated questions of loyalty and duty.
The character studies are excellent, and all the fine acting and directing get the most of out the possibilities. The settings are convincing and help the viewer feel what it was like to be in camp with the prisoners, sharing their boredom and their longing for freedom. The plot itself is interesting, and has some exciting moments, but the main emphasis is on what the characters learn about themselves and about humanity in general. There are many thoughtful scenes and some nicely defined secondary characters that round out the picture.
This is a fine movie, deserving of its reputation, and one that should appeal highly to anyone who enjoys classic cinema.
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