Hunt for the Wilderpeople

 

wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Directed by New Zealand director, Taika Waititi (What we Do In The Shadows, 2015), in-short the movie concerns the disappearance of a young teenager with his foster guardian for about 6  weeks in the New Zealand bush, with a national manhunt underway for them two heroes.

Our Young protagonist, Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison, Paper Planes, 2014)) is a street smart young lad full of attitude, though always strangely likeable. We never know why he has been taken from home, all we do know is that this city kid has been placed in the care of Bella (Rima Te Wiata, House Bound, 2014)) “call me aunty Bella” and her silent grumpy husband, Hector, (Sam Neill, Daybreakers, 2009). The social worker looking after Ricky is the officious job’s worth,  Paula, (Rachel House, Whalerider, 2002).

Despite initial problems, such as Ricky deciding to run away on his first night, and only managing to get about 200 metres from the house, before falling asleep with exhaustion only to be found the next morning by Bella. In the days that follow, Ricky and Bella develop a relaxed relationship, with Ricky slowly settling in. Small gestures by Bella such as a hot-water bottle in the bed, of a small collection of books for Ricky read. Life starts to take on an ordinary pace. Hector is still a silently grumpy as usual. Indeed, the only time we see Hector show emotion is when Bella unexpectedly dies at home, Hector is distraught.

A man of few words, He and Ricky get through the funeral and begin to settle down at home, only to receive word that the authorities are going to collect Ricky in about a week.  This is the key point in the film, upon which all else hinges. Ricky decides to run away, however he gets lost, Hector looking for him, finds him but quickly there-after, injures himself, resulting in them taking six weeks in the bush to recover. During this time, the social worker is convinced Ricky has been kidnapped by Hector and a full-scale manhunt is launched. Eventually Hector and Ricky discover this, and have to cope as best they can while trying to recover the situation. The interactions they have with the public range from co-operative to trying to turn them in.  We follow them as Ricky tries his hand a hunting for the first time, or building a shelter, or sharing a camp with Hector. Together they try to survive, seeing off risks from civilians hunting them, dodging the police and keeping fed.

The only down side is the Characterisation of Paula’s social worker, as it was overly manic and more than necessary for the part, allied to this was the use of a “SWAT team looking for the couple of fugitives (Watching SWAT teams search through New Zealand bush wears off as a joke fairly quickly).

Sam Neill is perfect for the role, gruff and uninterested (or so it seems) at first, his character has a caring side which comes out as the film moves on, as do the secrets Hector carries with him as he goes through life.  As with most of these movies, Hector not only teaches Ricky about life, but the reciprocal takes place also. Together they deal with the challenges their escapade causes, learning a bit more about each other, as they do.

I could go into detail, but that would just ruin the story, as with any chase they are eventually caught and have to deal with the consequences of their actions.  This could have been a twee piece which would have had me pull my eyes out, but no, it is well crafted (apart from Paula, sorry!) and entertaining, young Dennison gives a first-class performance alongside one of New Zealand’s greatest actors, who as usual does not let the side down. This movie brings together a loud, self-confident street thug and a lonely grumpy old man missing his life partner and results in as assured young man, preparing to take his place in the world, alongside his friend and mentor, Hector.

8/10

Mustang (2016)

This has been the surprise movie of 2016 for me so far.  Set in Northern Turkey it is Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut feature, and one which will get himmustang noticed. The film is set in modern day Turkey in a rural community, seemingly modern, but privately conservative.  One early summer’s day the 5 sisters around who the story revolves are at the beach on the way home playing with some of the local boys. By the standards of the “western viewer” their actions were nothing of any much worth to notice, but in conservative small town Islamic Turkey, this was too much, young men/boys and girls playing about in such a manner was not acceptable.  Their sins were to  be kids.  Hearing of their actions from the complaint of an old neighbour, the girls’ grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas) acts to curtail the situation.

Effective immediately, in order to prevent further shame to the household, the girls are forced in to “traditional” shapeless dresses, and no more unsuitable western clothing, which might corrupt their young neighbours. As if this was not enough the girls are effectively placed under house-arrest, not allowed out to mix with friends or swim.

As this incarceration rises tensions, the girls’ uncle  (Aybert Pekcan), their guardian does nothing to settle the situation, turning the family home effectively into a prison, with new locks on the doors,  bars on the windows, and gates to block access.  Against all of these changes, the girls continue to fight back in an attempt to control their own lives, not always successfully.  In all this very definite characters arise among the girls as they, ultimately futilely, fight back against what is being imposed on them.

The ultimate humiliation being visited upon the girls, is their marrying-off, almost immediately upon events starting, their uncle decides it is time to find them suitable local husbands. What follows is a very sharp look at the clash between the modern world and traditional conservative practices of an older generation. Much of the film deals with how the girls are forced to come to terms with this and accept their new husbands, or not.

An interesting sub-plot, is the attempt by the girls to escape their destiny, and live the western life they dream about. Will they all be able to escape?

At first glance this would seem as a light-hearted drama comedy, however, as the movie progresses the darker clash of cultures begins to drive the film. As with any well-crafted movie there are moments of light-hearted hilarity to counter-point the deeply unsettling aspects of the movie.

Well worth the time taken to watch it, one of the best movies that I’ve seen so far in 2016. 4/5

Youth (2015)

 

Some directors take a life-time to get established, however Paulo Sorrentino (Thyouth-2015_e Great Beauty 2013), has done this in less than half a dozen films. Those not used to Sorrentino’s works might take a little while to get into this movie, but when you do, it will reward you.   The movie is set around an elderly Maestro, played by Michael Caine (Get Carter, 1971) who while trying to enjoy a holiday in an upmarket Spa-hotel in the Alps with his daughter and best friend (Mick Boyle, played by Harvey Keitel (Thelma & Louise, 1991)), who is trying to write his final masterpiece screenplay). Despite the tranquil setting (with camera-work to match) there is an underlying tension, the Maestro’s daughter is unhappy with the treatment of her mother by her father, who he last visited 20 years ago (was it her grave he visited?).

Much of the film is made up of the Maestro and Boyle working through their issues, usually together, while not allowing the tranquillity of the surroundings to be interrupted.  Their time at the hotel is enlivened (relatively speaking) by a young actor, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine, 2006) also staying in the hotel as he prepares for his next role, keeping mostly to himself, and not imposing himself on any of the guests.

Behind all this, pressure is being put on the Maestro to perform his most famous piece of music as part of a celebration of the Queen’s birthday, the request is personal from the Royal family and not just some producer trying to fill an event programme. Boyle meanwhile is working with his writing staff on what could be his last great screenplay. Added to this is the fact that the Maestro’s daughter is married to Boyle’s son, however they are splitting up due to his infidelities, both fathers show their displeasure with the young man.

As the movie progresses with the heroes working through the issues, the viewer is drawn in by the musicality of the presentation, the visual aspects are stunning and the acting perfectly levelled for the work in question. I could go into detail on the plot and ruin the movie, suffice it to say, this is a movie to sit-back watch and enjoy. Sorrentino’s own The Great Beauty (2013) or Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) would be similar to this one.

Don’t be fooled by the slow/serene start, this movie grips you from the start and walks you along the Alpine storyline right to the end. Each of the leading cast gives the type of performance we’ve come to expect from each of them. Well worth experiencing.

Score 4/5

 

 

Ex Machina

At first blush this seems a highly original piece, however as you settle down to it one begins to see very firm shades of Frankenstein. From a cinema perspective, despite the technological bias I was brought back to the 1972 classic by Joseph Mankiewicz, Sleuth where Michael Caine and Laurance Olivier are in a house together and at least one of them has murder on his mind. Although the intention here is not to kill the tension is still there.

The film starts with a young programmer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson ,About Time, 2013) who works for the world’s largest search engine “Bluebook” winning a week’s stay with the founder of the company, Nathan (Oscar Isaac, a Most Violent Year, 2014). Caleb is flown up to near Nathan’s home (in deepest Alaska) but has to go the remaining way on foot, due to the helicopter pilot not being allowed to get any closer. After some very awkward first moments and the first greeting , the two eventually settle down to an all-be-it uneasy working relationship. It turns out Caleb was there for a reason.

Caleb is there to help Nathan with his latest creation. At the age of 13 Nathan developed the algorithms for a search Engine called “Blue Book”. Now a silicon valley billionaire he tells Caleb the secret of his success was that while others saw the search engines as a way of knowing what people were thinking about, he saw it as a way of knowing how people were thinking. It turns out Nathan has developed an AI and wants Caleb to conduct a Turing test on the AI to see if she can pass as human.

This of course cannot be a pure Turing test, and as such is the foundation for some very intense and possible disturbing discussions between Caleb and Nathan. When Caleb meets the android Ava (Alicia Vikander, Seventh Son 2014) he quickly realises there may be more to the week.

As Caleb learns more from Ava and gets to know her, he sees that both Ava and Nathan seem to have very different views on each other. As each day passes Caleb sinks deeper in to a rabbit hole which would have impressed Alice on her way to Wonderland. As with the original Frankenstein, Adam or in this case Ava needs to escape. Plans are hatched and the situation quickly descends in to one of survival.

Throughout you get a sense of being trapped in the bunker of house which Nathan has, indeed this is reflected in how even Caleb has access to the house. The person we see with Caleb is the real person, everybody else may not be what or who they seem. Isaac’s Nathan is a perfect example of characterisation; we were never meant to like him and as the movie progresses we are given no reason to actually start liking him.

It is a great tense thriller, the plot is generally tight, although some developments are fairly well sign-posted, if you manage to catch the clues. There are a couple of turns and twists; not all of which predicted.

The tension and edginess of this production make it work, it is dark and the more we learn of Nathan the more we begin to wonder if he shut himself off from the world or did the world discard him. Who will escape the confines of the house, how will the android survive the week by passing the test. Is the android the only person being tested?

The special effects are flawless and seamless, important given the nature of Eva’s android frame. If you are looking for stomach turning violence you will not find it here, but if what you seek is an intelligent piece of cinema, watch this one.

This movie is as much a modernisation of Frankenstein as a reflection on the modern world around us. Written and directed by Alex Garland, this is his directorial debut.

8/10

22 May 2015 and how it impacted.

Ireland says Yes to Marriage equality, the Global Impact

The Vote Itself.

There are a number of questions and impacts arising out of the historic Yes vote in Ireland on May 22 . I want to look at the very issue of the vote itself. Many LGBT rights/civil rights campaigners are totally against the proposal of putting such rights to a popular vote. Reasons against voting include fears around running the risk of losing the vote, which is fair enough, the other is that many are against putting the granting or rights to a vote of the population, why should rights be at the discretion of others.

With regards to the fear of losing the vote, this is a real fear, as we have seen recently in other European jurisdictions. In Ireland the discussion has been on-going with broad political approval. In Ireland the time for the discussion had come, it was now. The vote now was not as risky as people might consider. Although all political parties were in favour of the proposal, the support for the move was often less that total with a number politicians not campaigning (especially those local/ municipal level politicians).

The issue of putting a rights issue to a vote is more contentious. There is the philosophical argument for/against, but in Ireland there was a practical reason which required us to have a vote. The Irish Constitution strongly protects the rights laid-down in it. As it stands Article 41 deals with concepts surrounding the Family. Legislation could have been brought in directly, however there would have been the very real potential for any legislation to be held-up in the courts as the constitutionality of such legislation is debated, relevant to the Irish Constitution. This scenario is quite likely as we have a long history in Ireland of challenging legislative provisions with respect to their constitutionality. The end result of legislation would have been months or years judicial wrangling.

The Nature of the Debate

Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of the 22 May vote was the campaign and how it essentially turned the usual rules of campaigning on its head.

The Religious/Catholic aspect: Although many reports from around the world show Ireland as a deeply Catholic country, the reality of the situation is that the Church no longer has anywhere near the moral “authority” it used to have. Also there is a more fundamental point. The generational understanding of religion has changed. In the post Vatican II Catholic world, the attitudes of ordinary Catholics has changed. Gone is the fire and brimstone, burning fires of Hell Catholicism. Modern Irish Catholics have a religion based on the basic principal of Love, love thy neighbour.

Yes there was a rejection of Catholic teaching by many who as a matter of basic attitude would vote against anything supported by the Church, but there were others who saw a Yes vote as the decent Christian thing to do, you’ll see why in a minute. It should be noted that although a number of bishops came out against the Vote, many stayed relatively silent. The Archbishop of Dublin was at pains to stress that his position was not anti-LGBT.

Another aspect of the religious question was that of the lay fundamentalist organisations. These people had to be met straight-on and dealt with objectively. Where they quoted the bible, there is always another Bible quote to support a yes position. So a lesson, before you deal with a fundamentalist, learn their position and make sure you have your counter argument. A rights advocate will never win against a fundamentalist because they will not be open to discussion and changing attitudes, what does work though is to meet their arguments with fundamental “love” . It would seem that quoting scripture passages back at them, not only annoys them but also throws them out of kilter.

The difference between a No voter and a fundamentalist: many who voted No did so for personal reasons with the greatest respect for all involved and while I might disagree with their position, I respect it. A fundamentalist NO, is somebody who just spouts out religious dogma and refuses to entertain discussion. These people are often also homophobic, despite what they say. One interesting aspect of the debate was that, people did not debate the pro’s and cons of being gay, acceptance of LGBT people was taken as a given and any talk against such people was unacceptable.

What is the topic? There was much discussion around family related subjects such as surrogacy and adoption and the supposedly negative effect same-sex marriage would have on the family through use of these avenues. Many saw the basic untit of a family as being mother, father and children, with many saying that the purpose of marriage is procreation and a marriage with out “natural procreation” between both parties is not a valid marriage. Needless to say such an argument not only insults LGBT voters, but also childless couples, single parents and any right-thinking person. Where topics, designed to be contentious were brought up, they were met with a common cry, of that’s not the issue, please go back on topic. Although associated with marriage, these topics were not exclusively subject to the discussion at hand. These are separate matters governed by separate legislation that would still be needed/in force regardless of the referendum vote.

Discussion rather than argument

Own the discussion: do not let fundamentalists get you down. Time and time again people had to take a moment and simply walk away, not presenting a fundamentalist with a platform, removes their ability to communicate. A perhaps extreme example of this is the folks in Westboro Baptist “church” – You cannot have a logical conversation with these people so don’t.

Respect: The high moral ground is a great place, we have it and should keep it. Denying fundamentalists the opportunity to spout their nonsense is a valuable asset. As a nation people stood and refused to listen to extreme language, and simply said, “We do not recognise what you are saying”. It should also be remembered that the vast majority of those who voted No are good and decent people, motivated to do so for personal or religious reasons. While certain Yes voters were voting so, purely (or as a bonus) against the Church (indeed some proposed No as an anti-government vote, but more on that later).

Objectivity: by the end of the campaign the No side were complaining that they were not being listened to and were being ignored by the Yes side and the “Establishment”. This was because when the campaign started out came all the wild statements about what the gays would do and how the institution of marriage would be destroyed for ever (not to mention all the other doomsday predictions, and some were actually doomsday predictions), rather than argue the point , the Yes advocates took an objective approach when a wild statement like 100% of gays do this or that, the response was “prove it”, “where is the evidence” “quote your sources”. When faced with objectivity many could not deal with it.

Love is the word:

Why vote Yes? Because it was the right thing to do, but why was it seen as the right thing to do? A key aspect of the discussion was why should same-sex marriages be allowed. The simple answer was “Equality”. As a result of living in a constitutional republic one of the cornerstones of the Yes position was that ALL CITIZENS ARE EQUAL, and so should be afforded the same rights and protections. The love of one individual for another is as valuable of one person as it is for everybody, regardless or sexual orientation.

As the campaign progressed and indeed never more so than in the last days, the discussion stopped being about the rights and wrongs of same-sex marriage itself, but how we as a society wish to be treat each other in respect to this right or any other. For many it became a moral imperative not just to vote Yes, but to vote, period.

Not about spite: As I mentioned earlier, some people announced they would vote no, just to spite the government. Such a move spites nobody only your LGBT neighbour. In the Irish situation, Constitutional politics should be above party politics and so should not reflect our opinions of the government. This may seem theoretical, but when it could cost the referendum it is a very serious concern.

Keep it simple: Among all of the theory and theology the key was to keep it simple. Why vote Yes? To extend the definition of marriage, why? Because it is the right thing to do? Because we are a republic and all citizens are EQUAL, in this respect and all others.

Discussion not campaigning: One possibly unique aspect of this campaign was the discussion aspect. While the No side campaigned for their wanted outcome, the Yes side had a discussion with the voting public. While the No side told us why we should vote No and everything bad that would happen . The Yes side asked mother, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues is they would deny the happiness they have to their LGBT family members and friends.   Why should you be able to marry the person you love and I not. This discussion appealed to the basic nature of the Irish spirit.

 

The big question

Ask one question get another answer. Although the question being voted on was simple in its wording, simply looking to extend marriage to all regardless of their sex, what happened was the country gave a greater answer. Although opinion polls gave possible results of up to 70% for Yes, very few believed them because in Ireland conservative no voters tend to either not declare in opinion polls or say they will vote, Yes. An example of this which hung over the heads of all, was the Divorce referendum, when an opinion poll 70% Yes vote turned into a 50.28% to 49.72 % win for Yes. This was a critical question because it shaped the final days of the vote. More and more the No voters were shouting on to deaf ears, so much so that they started to say they were being bullied and intimidated by the huge wall of yes supporters. One of the more pleasantly ironic aspects of the debate was when the no campaign started to campaign on the grounds of equality, they were entitled to be heard equally, how the wheel turns. Asking the question of family and friends made the question personal to everybody not just the LGBT community. Pretty soon, it became a moral question, not around whether two people of the same sex should marry (or raise children) but rather, what right does one person have to deny a basic freedom (to marry) or the chance to be happy to another. Many say this as a defining question of a generation. The debate had without people noticing, grown and changed in to a discussion about who we are as a people. Such was the nature of the discussion that many thousands of emigrants returned home from various parts of the world just to vote on that day (Under Irish law, your vote lapses if you are out of the country more than 18months and to use it you have to vote in person). In the six months before voting date over 100,000 people added themselves to the voting register (a sizeable number when you consider the total electorate is 3.2m).   The Yes Equality badge became an iconic symbol worn by many.

People asked themselves how do we want to shape the country we live in. Phrases like “Republic of Equals” became popular, people were asked to “vote for Love”. One of the significant messages in the dying days of the campaign, was “bring the family out to vote”. BelongTo’s video for this has received international attention. The HomeToVote online campaign also should this. Essentially the appeal was to people to not only vote but also to ask how would you like to be treated, how would you like your family and friends to be treated. It came down to love and respect rather than pro or anti- gay attitudes.

Why such a shift, Why such compassion?

Age: Many observers have said that the scale of the Yes vote is down to the youth, the students, of the country coming out to vote and indeed returning to the country to vote in huge numbers. “If somebody can travel half way around the world to vote, I can walk down the road to do the same thing” . Yes the youth vote played an important part but so did the other demographics. Electoral districts known for their conservative voting patterns returned yes votes (sometimes barely) with only one of 43 electoral districts actually returning a No vote. The youth voted Yes, but also large numbers of older voters are voted the same way, as did people across the economic and political divides.

International

Different laws and ideas of constitutional settings. In Ireland we put the question to a popular vote by way of referendum in order to ensure there would be no Constitutional challenges to legislation. This may not work, or be needed everywhere, but it was here and it did work. In the few days since the referendum we see , how MPs in Australia are considering their position in relation to same-sex marriage legislation; a Presidential candidate in Taiwan has spoken on the need for action, the opposition in Germany is now asking for a referendum there also etc. The fact of the matter is that what happens in one country can affect and inspire others, all the better when the message is one of happiness.

Republic of equals: I am not sure how this plays out internationally but it shaped how we reacted in Ireland and how we celebrated the outcome of the vote. Many people voted yes because it was the only way to vote. As has been pointed out the LGBT community is by the nature of its numbers always going to be a majority, but when you took into account family friends, colleagues and strangers who all stood together with their LGBT fellow citizens, then you get a majority. People were happy to vote yes, because the discussion had become one of how we treat all citizens in our republic. By the end of the campaign we were not looking at how we deal with an LGBT issue but how we as a people saw ourselves as part of a constitutional democracy. Equality as a principle was a guiding one. What we ended up doing was giving an statement on how we saw ourselves as a nation. Situations in other countries are often different depending on the nature of the legal and social structures , the people of Ireland did not set out to make a global statement, but the statement made went around the world. The simple statement was, is, one that; all citizens are indeed equal. From our definition of equality come rights such as freedom – when we are all equal we are all free.

As important as the debate and vote were, the result and the response to the result were just as important. How the country reacted to the vote, made as much a statement as the vote. When the result was announced (and expected) those present in and around Dublin Castle started to sing the Irish National Anthem. The question and the answer may have started being one of LGBT rights, but ended with us looking to see who we are as a people.

If somebody, anybody elsewhere in the world is better-off in any way for this, then, win.

 

Seven Days In May (1964)

The political thriller based on the 1962 novel by Fletcher Knebel & Charles Bailey with the screenplay by Rod Sterling and directed by John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, 1962). The original book is set in a short time in to the future (early 1970’s) the film does not do this, however there is one indication on a screen that it might be set in 1970. It does however have echoes of the famous John F Kennedy clash with General Edwin Walker – who had to be removed from office given his political statements.

Against this political background a senior aide, Marine Colonel “jiggs” Casey (Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory, 1957) who works for Airforce James Mattoon Scott, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Burt Lancaster, (Zulu Dawn, 1975) in the course of events Jiggs starts to uncover certain inconsistencies and transfers and when he starts to ask questions he is calmly told there is nothing and eventually gets sent on leave. Limited in where he can turn, he pulls in favours and goes straight to the President (Fredric Marchand, the Iceman Cometh, 1973) and his Chief of Staff (Martin Balsam, 12 angry men, 1957), after some discussions the President agree to quietly look in to it through back channels, assembling a small group of people he can trust. As they begin to investigate, they come up against stonewall responses with friends like the senator Raymond Clark (Edmond O’Brien, D.O.A. 1950) being detained at the secret military base he “discovered”.

As the tension mounts the President has essentially hours before a believed move by the General and his supporters in the guise of a large scale military exercise which the President was due to attend. The President cancels his attendance and then also the exercise at the last minute. The stage is set for the final showdown and hours before the General is about to make his move on national television the President addresses the nation and publicly requires the resignations of many of his top generals. In the face of such opposition the other all resign leaving Scott to decide his own future.

This is a tense well-constructed thriller which through the use of CCTV, video conferencing etc . subtly gives the futuristic hints owed to the book. I’ve not covered some of the finer point, that would take away from the thriller aspect. Watch it.

8/10

La Grand Illusion

Set during World War I is tells the story of two French Aviators, their capture and subsequent confinement and escape. This film is as much about class and background as it is about war. Indeed one could argue that the war is only a vehicle to carry the story of class difference and how it impacts on the lives of all those concerned. It was directed by the great Jean Renoir (Madame Bovary, 1934) who co-wrote it with Charles Spaak (Justice is Done, 1950). Centred around our two heroes the two aviators; Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay, The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1934) the aristocrat of the pair and his working-class lieutenant, Maréchal (Jean Gabin, Le Jour se Leve, 1939). Having gone out to further photograph a site which they filmed on a previous flight (but was too blurred to be of use) our aviators are shot down. As it turns out they are downed by a German aristocrat, a one Captain von Rauffenstein (Eric von Stroheim, Sunset Blvd. 1950). In the earlier part of the war the aviators saw themselves as the last of the gallant military and often observed social niceties across the divide, as in this case. After shooting them down, von Rauffenstein has the two men found and brought to him, where they are invited to be his guests. During the course of the dinner it is realised that von Rauffenstein and Boeldieu actually have mutual acquaintances, reflecting the nature of the trans-national lives European aristocrats often lead.

The two aviators are subsequently sent to a POW camp where they fall-in with a number of fellow prisoners. During their incarceration here we see how Maréchal is given solitary confinement as a result of a commotion; we also see how badly it affects him. Out with the main population the two are fully involved in escape attempts, which ultimately come to nothing as the prisoners are transferred and Maréchal cannot let the English prisoners know of a escape tunnel due to his lack of language.

Transferred to various camps they arrive at Wintersborn, a camp under the command of the now injured and promoted von Rauffenstein. Once again escape is on their minds and along with the rich aristocratic Jew Le Lieutenant Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio Donovan’s Reef, 1963) who they know from their previous camp, they plot to escape. As part of the escape Boeldieu climbs to a highpoint and gets the guards attention. His fellow aristocrat, von Rauffenstein, stops the guards from shooting him and tries to get him down, meanwhile the other make a run for it and climb out/down using the usual home-made assortment of rope/cloth. Von Rauffenstein, aiming for Boeldieu’s legs shoots him in the stomach and fatally wounds him. While dying Boeldiue comments on their place in society and what might be the place for those such as them in the new post-war world.

Meanwhile the others escape through Germany on their way to Switzerland. On their way there they have their share of upsets and even separate, with Maréchal leaving the injured Rosenthal, only to return. They eventually take shelter in a small farmhouse owned by Elsa Parlo, (Dito Parlo, L’Atalnte, 1934), her husband and brothers have all been lost in the war, yet she helps them recover and treats them with kindness, even keeps them safe from her fellow Germans. Eventually leaving the two make their way to Switzerland, only to come under fire from a patrol as the approach the Swiss border, they escape.

We see from the connections such as with Boeldieu and von Rauffenstein that regardless of nationalities, society can, given the right environment function at a level which is unrelated to that of nation-states and indeed should make war obsolete due to the effects it could have on those of that class, the Grand Illusion. Renoir had a message here, clearly filmed against the rising tide of Nazism and fascism in Europe we look to see how Jewish and coloured characters are treated. We could analyses the movie from hindsight, rather we should watch it and perhaps ask what lessons do we still have to learn.

Much has been written about the decline of the aristocratic or ruling families of Europe after the war and the rise of a “new world order”, one where the common man and not the landed gentry would look to guide the world they lived in. Interestingly, only 20 years after the end of WWI Renoir had sufficiently clear a picture of this decline and change that he was able to write one of the best and earliest depictions of this changing Europe/world.

I’ve held off on mentioning a comparison to Kubrick’s Paths to Glory (1957). Again we see elements of the class struggle and the changing face of humanity brought on by the war. The other obvious comparison is All Quiet on the Western Front (based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque) directed by Lewis Milstone (1930) which focused on the physical and mental suffering of the ordinary soldier in the conflict. In deed it is quoted that one of the reasons Renoir made this film was because he felt no other movie, apart from All Quiet on the Western Front, sufficiently told the story of the ordinary soldier.

La Grande Illusion is as strong today as it was in 1937, perhaps even stronger for our failing to learn from it and other writings/productions form “ordinary people”

9/10