The Grand Illusion

1458 Words6 Pages
The Grand Illusion The Grand Illusion, a 1937 black and white film by Jean Renoir, is an expository masterpiece about a group of French officers taken prisoner by the Germans during WWI. As one of the first truly great war films, The Grand Illusion has influenced many other films over the years. Jean Renoir, son of the well-known artist Auguste Renoir, fought in WWI as an aviator, which informed and influenced the film. Although The Grand Illusion is a war film, almost no fighting takes place on screen. Rather than focus on the horrors of WWI, Renoir chose to focus on the social dynamics of WWI. The viewer is ultimately made to believe that during the time period of WWI, social class, not nationality, was the great divider, and that the artificial divides were not positive. The title of the film refers to the fallacy that war is good, that war is just, and that at the end of a war people will be better off than before the war began. A French-Jewish prisoner named Rosenthal, a nouveau riche officer whose family is involved with banking, states during a conversation with other prisoners that the better world they envision at the end of the war is “all an illusion.” The Grand Illusion is clearly and convincingly antiwar, and the futility of war is a common theme throughout the film. Renoir demonstrates this futility without using battle scenes, and instead uses prisoner of war camps as a means to show how men from very different nations can have similar experiences during war. The Grand Illusion opens with two French aviation officers, Maréchal and de Boeldieu, getting shot down during a reconnaissance mission by the German officer von Rauffenstein. Rauffenstein calmly and coolly removes his aristocratic white gloves, informs one of his subordinates of the downed French aircraft, and tells him to go take the pilots prisoner. Because of his demeanor, the viewer does
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