BU Film School

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FT 540 Reading: Grand Illusion

Screenplay info
Written by: Jean Renoir (also story) and Charles Spaak
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0028950

Synopsis
Captain de Boeldieu arrives, Lieutenant Maréchal is sent to escort him. They are shot down and taken to Germans. They are graciously hosted by Captain von Rauffenstein. (He even regrets that their "visit" coincides with celebration of aircraft kills.)

The pair are taken to their first POW camp, and meet up with Rosenthal, the Actor (designated buffoon), the Engineer, and the Teacher. (The last three are fairly one-dimensional characters.) Great juxtaposition of their feasting on Rosenthal's tins, Germans eating their meal.

Some drama related to the group's attempt to escape -- asking if can trust Boeldieu, digging hole (Actor nearly suffocates), Teacher discovering that someone's been shot behind gardens, getting rid of dirt.

Costumes arrive (Rosenthal's behest). They sew them. Germans announce they've taken Douaumont. Performance (temporary illusion) makes all laugh. Maréchal announces French have retaken Douaumont. He's put in detention. (Germans take D. back -- no one seems to pay attention, doesn't matter.) Old German tries to be nice to Maréchal, he rejects.

Group are informed that they're switching camps. Maréchal tries to tell British officer about hole, isn't understood. Montage of train stopping at different camps. Boeldieu and Maréchal end up at Rauffenstein's camp (high, high up). Rauffenstein takes them on tour (highlights class differences), shows geranium. Rosenthal's there, too.

Rosenthal and Maréchal work on rope. Boeldieu helps them (hiding rope for inspection). Boeldieu, Rauffenstein talk as equals -- fellow officers, aristocrats. Russians expect vodka, get books instead, burn them, sentries come. This gives Boeldieu idea. He makes up his mind to help M & R escape. M tries to thank him, Boeldieu says it's nothing personal. Even now, can't bridge differences.

Flute concert. Sentries come, confiscate flutes. Prisoners bang on bars, called out for roll. Boeldieu climbs tower, plays flute. R & M climb down rope. Rauffenstein is forced to shoot Boeldieu. Rauffenstein apologizes -- meant to shoot in leg. "Duty is duty." Rauffenstein lops off his geranium.

M & R quarrel (R is hurt). M leaves R, who starts singing. M sings to drown him out. R alone, cries. M returns, helps him along. They come to Elsa's house. She's careful (especially with child, Lotte), but lets them in. They help with chores, make Xmas tree. M falls for Elsa, she for him. (learning French, German). M promises to return, take Elsa and Lotte to France. M & R leave. M says should be last war, R says it's an illusion. M & R run across frontier, tracked by patrol. They escape across border into Switzerland.

My notes
-- not as detailed on camera directions as Lawrence of Arabia, but does give some notes.
-- social distinctions. Differences in tastes, subjects, speech, mannerisms. Persist to the end. Talk about women, families, food.
-- character shown through interactions with others, actions (actor playing with monocle).
-- lots of small group shots. No one grand hero -- ordinary men.
-- lots of smaller events, couple of bigger ones (escape).

FT 540 notes (from 06/03/03)
-- End of monarchy. Codes of honor don't exist.

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