Saturday, September 12, 2009
Grand Illusion. A
Jean Renoir's 'Grand Illusion' is as magnificent to think about as it is to watch. Seeing the film now feels like watching history recently discovered. It's true, 'Grand Illusion' is now in prime conditon after being restored. Renoir made the film as an anti-war statement before WWII began, but it was condemned by the Germans. The original prints were rediscovered and reissued in 1960, and the original high quality of the film is available via Criterion. As for the movie itself, it's tale of two prisoners and their stints at two different war camps. It's brillinatly directed by Renoir, whose use of the camera has been a great influence to world cinema. It probably greatly inspired Orson Wells, who publicly stated it to be one of his personal favorites. I found comparisons with this and Billy Wilder's 'Stalag 17,' which also tells the story of prisoners in a European camp. Only 'Grand Illusion' is a greater film because it shows the result of war, where as '17' merely depicted, rather comically, life in a prison camp. 'Grand Illusion' begs to be seen again for so many reasons. It's worth a second time just to focus on German Captain Von Rauffenstein, played by Erich von Stroheim (you probably remember most from another Billy Wilder film, the timeless 'Sunset Blvd'). Unlike most German captains, he is depicted as tragic, sympathetic, and truly human. 'Grand Illusion' is filled with greatness. Its message is clear: that war is a grand illusion for the European countries. It's clear that the film shows the unity of the different soldiers from different countries throughout Europe.