Grand Illusion, The

Three French soldiers, the working-class Marechal (Gabin), the middle-class Rossenthal (Dalio) and the aristocrat Boieldieu (Fresnay), are held prisoner in a fortress run by Commandant von Rauffenstein (von Stroheim). Practically nobody noted the irony with which this archetypal prison camp escape story also outlined a barbed social analysis, demonstrating how the exigencies of a wartime situation impel Boieldieu to sacrifice himself (and Rauffenstein to shoot him) so that two of his men may escapees (Marechal and Rosenthal) once their roles as hero-warriors are over, will return home reduced being working class and dirty Jew once more. The Grand Illusion often cited as an enigmatic title, is surely not that peace can ever be permanent, but that liberty, equality and fraternity is ever likely to become a social reality rather than a token ideal. The script of Renoir's most popular film was touted around for three years before Gabin finally got it produced. Based on a true story of World War I told to the director by a friend. The fluid, deep-focus camerawork, the set pieces such as the singing of the Marseillaise during theatricals, and the extraordinary performances make it one of the cinema's most enduring masterpieces.

Jean Renoir

Charles Spaak
Jean Renoir

Christian Matras
Claude Renoir

Dita Parlo
Erich von Stroheim
Gaston Modot
Jean Dasté
Jean Gabin
Julien Carette
Marcel Dalio
Pierre Fresnay

Joseph Kosma

Best Artistic Ensemble
New York Film Critics Award 19
Venice 1937

2nd Festival on Wheels
War and Resistance