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La Grande Illusion (1937)

La grande illusion (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, War | 12 September 1938 (USA)
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2:05 | Trailer

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During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.

Director:

Jean Renoir

Writers:

Charles Spaak (scenario and dialogue), Jean Renoir (scenario and dialogue)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Jean Gabin ... Le lieutenant Maréchal
Dita Parlo ... Elsa
Pierre Fresnay ... Le captaine de Boeldieu
Erich von Stroheim ... Le captaine von Rauffenstein (as Eric von Stroheim)
Julien Carette ... Cartier - l'acteur (as Carette)
Georges Péclet Georges Péclet ... Le serrurier (as Peclet)
Werner Florian Werner Florian ... Le sergent Arthur
Jean Dasté ... L'instituteur (as Daste)
Sylvain Itkine Sylvain Itkine ... Le lieutenant Demolder (as Itkine)
Gaston Modot ... L'ingénieur (as Modot)
Marcel Dalio ... Le lieutenant Rosenthal (as Dalio)
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Storyline

During 1st WW, two French officers are captured. Captain De Boeldieu is an aristocrat while Lieutenant Marechal was a mechanic in civilian life. They meet other prisoners from various backgrounds, as Rosenthal, son of wealthy Jewish bankers. They are separated from Rosenthal before managing to escape. A few months later, they meet again in a fortress commanded by the aristocrat Van Rauffenstein. De Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with him but Marechal and Rosenthal still want to escape... Written by Yepok

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A Film of Great Power and Compassion! See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France

Language:

French | German | English | Russian

Release Date:

12 September 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La Grande Illusion See more »

Filming Locations:

Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, France See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$50,793, 13 August 1999

Gross USA:

$172,885, 2 December 2012
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1937 release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In certain interior scenes, Jean Renoir was able to keep his camera moving by having movable partial sets constructed in the courtyard of the actual barracks used on location. He did this to avoid destroying the continuity of a scene through editing. This also allowed him to shoot his actors "indoors" while showing the bustle of the camp outside the window. See more »

Goofs

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. See more »

Quotes

Capt. de Boeldieu: Out there, children play soldier...
Capt. de Boeldieu: In here, soldiers play like children.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Casablanca (1942) See more »

Soundtracks

Il était un petit navire
(uncredited)
Traditional French children's song
See more »

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User Reviews

Not sure now what Renoir is actually saying
20 August 2011 | by jacabiyaSee all my reviews

Just saw it again on TCM, and now I see things in the film that make me question my high regard and admiration for it. This classic film has a special glow of humanity, which makes it unique and instinctively accessible. One can understand why it was such a hit in 1937. At the same time, this is not a surrealist film or a satire as the title might suggest, but an interpretation of horrific events from the point view of a humanist, and in that sense you get the inspirational message which seeks to outweigh other issues, but if you stop and think about the whole thing you end up appalled by some of the conclusions you might end up with. If it had successfully advanced the theme that war is hell and that men seek to preserve their humanity under these conditions, fine. But that is not the end result: the balance between the anti-war message and the idea that WWI was a gentlemen's war and that it brought the best out of men somehow leans on screen towards the latter and lends the film to negative interpretations. Renoir refuses to openly condemn war nor show its ugly face but by implication. And you can't say that wasn't Renoir's style, given his in-your-face condemnation of the attitudes of French's aristocracy prior to WWII in The Rules of the Game. Renoir emphasizes the men being pals and patriotic, eating well, joking, and dancing, which is what Renoir as a humanist understands men wish to do instead of fight, but the lack of any substantial sense of horror and suffering makes for an unbalanced film. The suffering is almost all psychological (life away from home and wife, loneliness) but it is hardly felt, except in the part of the story with the German woman, which is very successfully told. The physical suffering is not exposed at all, except for von Stroheimm's ailments, which are discussed tangentially, and even that suffering is mentioned but not felt. Renoir seems to expect the audience to presuppose the horror and the suffering. Renoir's conclusions in this film are confusing, naive and might even be considered downright insulting, particularly in the historic period this film was made. The problem might not be in Renoir's point of view or intentions but in what he actually put on the screen. So all in all, I'm not sure what Renoir is saying in this film, and therefore can not regard it as highly as I once did. I also agree with other reviewers that Renoir's technique is extraordinary but that the script is a mess. All in all, if you trust Renoir and stay with the humanistic theme and try to avoid any other interpretation you will still feel this is a great film, if not, then you will have serious reservations. I for one now have doubts.


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