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French Film Festival continues in ‘Grand Illusion’

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ULM’s History and World Language programs continued this year’s French Film Festival with “La Grande Illusion.”

The film festival has four showings per semester and is held once a month in Stubbs 100.

The movie is the sixth film out of eight in the series. The movie debuted in 1937 and premiered in American theaters in 1938.

The movie takes place during World War I and towards the beginning of World War II. It centers on French generals in a German prison camp.

“La Grande Illusion” highlights themes such as class and nationalism.

The movie begins with Boldieu and Marechal, two French soldiers held captive by German soldiers after one is injured in an airstrike. They are sent to a prison camp where they dig an escape with other French soldiers. Rosenthal is one of the most interesting soldiers in their room. Rosenthal is a wealthy Jewish man who shares his food with the soldiers. When they’re not digging the tunnel, they put on plays and perform hard labor.

The soldiers are later sent to another prison—a fortress that has no ways to escape. Throughout this part, Boldieu befriends the head of the fortress. Rosenthal is also sent to the fortress because of his cooking skills.

After a group of Russian soldiers get angry when the Czarina sends them books instead of vodka and caviar, the soldiers plan to let Marechal and Rosenthal escape while Boldieu distracts the generals.

The head of the fortress reluctantly shoots Boldieu, aiming for his legs but the bullet hits his stomach. Boldieu later dies from his injuries.

Marechal and Rosenthal escape the fortress, hiding from German soldiers and bracing against the winter weather.

Rosenthal sprains his ankle, and he and Marechal get into an argument. Marechal leaves him behind but returns because Rosenthalis his friend.

Marechal and Rosenthal take refuge in a barn when the owner, Elsa, takes them in. Elsa is a single German mother whose brothers died in battle.

She and her daughter bond with the men. Marechal teaches Elsa French, while Rosenthal teaches Marechal German.

When Rosenthal recovers, they leave for Switzerland. Marechal promises to return to Elsa and her daughter once the war is over. The movie ends when Rosental and Marechal are spotted by German soldiers. The soldiers are about to shoot, but the general stops them because they passed the border to Switzerland.

Director Jean Renoir’s aviation uniform is worn by Jean Gabin portraying Marchal– one of the movie’s main characters.

Ethan Simms, a senior Spanish major, attended the showing and enjoyed the film. “The movie brought up many interesting points such as the hypocrisy of war and the labels we put on ourselves,” Simms said. 

Because he is a fan of French films, Simms said he would attend another film showing. 

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The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe
French Film Festival continues in ‘Grand Illusion’