Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children) is set in German occupied France during the second world war. Directed by Louis Malle the movie draws on his childhood events of attending a Catholic school that harbours Jewish children.
The lead actors are two young boys played by Gaspard Manesse as the Catholic boy and Raphaël Fejtö as the Jewish boy. Like a slow cooked meal with attention to detail the movie is poignant and heroic without being melancholic or over-dramatic. The bonding between the two young boys is beautifully carved through realistic scenes of everyday school life. As the viewer is made aware that one of them is Jew, so is the Catholic boy. A sense of doom prevails in the background, never engulfing the movie or depriving it of its light heartedness. How real!
While the end will remain with you for a long time, what I take away from the movie is that love can blossom even in the face of death. The movie makes subtle statements about human behaviour. It uses the case of another young lad who works in the kitchen to make a point. A person of weak character is dangerous and one must be wary. Ample use of piano does justice to the theme and my favourite piano scene is when Jean Bonnet (the Jewish boy) plays it while his music teacher watches impressed. There is also the scene where the two boys play a piece together even while sirens of a possible bombing raid sound in the background. My thoughts went to the scene from Titanic where the musicians play on the deck even as the ship sinks. Music is such!
Au Revoir Les Enfants is in French and while the subtitles are sensitive, I am sure some fragrance is lost in translation. Nevertheless, a very worthwhile watch for its statement on innocence, bonding, and dignity.
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