Grand Illusion - Criterion #1


Grand Illusion (1937) dir. Jean Renoir | DP. Christian Matras

In this beautiful shot toward the end of Grand Illusion, I found myself wondering long after about its importance and meaning in the midst of the larger narrative. Throughout the film, we see the prisoners framed by different types of windows and out of a window their escape was made. But in this shot, as they near their freedom, we get the sense that this whole ordeal would have been so much easier if they could have just taken flight on a warm winter day.

The irony now, though, as these two gentlemen stow quietly in a small farmhouse behind enemy lines, is that they have a clear shot to freedom but are suddenly reluctant to leave. Maybe they should just stay hunkered down in Germany until this war blows over? What harm is there in that?

Obviously, for them, that is unacceptable. They must fulfill their duty. But they'll always have that gorgeous view to remember from their holiday in Germany.  —ML

“Grand illusions are the dreams which help men to live...but more than this, the grand illusions are the illusion of hatred, which arbitrarily divides men who are in reality not separated by anything; the illusion of boundaries, with the wars which result from them; the illusion of races, of social classes...The war, the product of hatred and division, paradoxically reveals the falseness of all barriers of prejudice separating man from man.”