We have seen war films such as All Quiet on the Western Front that showed us the perils of war. This is another powerful film about the First World War that Woody Allen considered one of the finest movies that he ever saw. Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion is when three French officers are detained in a German prisoner of war camp during World War I and attempt to plot their escape.
For a war film, we do not see any battle scenes or any gory scenes of violence. That was not Jean Renoir’s intention. He wanted to show that the men who were involved in this war were all human beings. We got to know these characters. The characters of de Boeldieu and von Rauffenstein were aristocrats who shared the same beliefs and experiences. They both believed that being a part of the war was a duty and that the war was there for a good reason- to end all wars. They also learn later how position does not really matter when a war occurs because in war, there are no rules. This film does a great job establishing that. Considering Renoir’s father was artist Auguste Renoir, of course there were beautiful exterior scenes and long takes to make the film look as realistic as possible. It makes us question the act of enlisting. Did you believe that it was right for Maréchal and Rosenthal to want to go back to fight in the war or were they just crazy? What would be the main reason to risk your lives for your country?
Unfortunately, I could not find a copy online but you can rent the film on Amazon for $3.99. Here is the trailer for this politically charged film and write in your thoughts: