9 July 2000 | Sonatine97
Children hide a terrible secret in this film masterpiece
On seeing this movie several years ago my accompanying colleagues said of the film: what a load of self-indulgent, confusing, French stylized rubbish. They bemoaned the slow pace of the film, of the 2 dimensional directing and lack of any action or violent death scenes!
Those words still linger with me now and has made me realise that perhaps a lot of the movie-going public these days feed on the latest sfx pyrotechnics, more ingenious ways of abstract killings, lots of needless sex and not letting a good intelligent story get in the way.
Films like Les Enfants are going to be even more difficult to track down if Hollywood and some of the European studios opt for the fast Buck route to riches.
Les Enfant is a truly wonderful & yet harrowing account of life in a Catholic boys boarding school during the dying embers of the Nazi occupation of France in WW2. One of the new boys happens to be Jewish but the headmaster chooses to keep such identities covert while still offering him sanctuary and an education in spite of all the risks he takes.
To be fair I know little of Louis Malle previous to this film, but I think he must have poured his life's soul into writing & directing Les Enfant.
No detail, harrowing or otherwise, is spared; we see so much beauty amongst the horrors of occupation & collaboration; but also the blossoming relationship between the two lead boys and how initial envy & hatred of the Jew is somewhat diluted by the realities that this is no infantile school game but that life and death for the Jewish boy hangs by a thread if anyone at the school should reveal his true identity.
The final moments are perhaps one of the most sad & dramatic scenes I have ever seen. These days a lot of people would be waiting for some great heroic entrance from a big movie star to sort out all the misery and leave us with a reassurance that "it really wasn't all that bad back then was it".
But there are no heroes at the end of this movie, at least not the kind of heroes Hollywood serves up. The boys in this film are the true heroes right to the very end, primarily for their spirit of humanity in the face of impossible odds.
This is the hard reality of war amongst children growing up not only in the face of their own adolescence (and all the problems that serves), but also with the dark fingered claw of Nazism hanging menacingly like the the Scythe of the Grim Reaper.
This film will move you in so many directions and will hopefully bring you back down to earth from the current Hollywood shallow circus of pap & style-over-content.
Its a difficult film to track down, and the reason for this can be attributed to the first paragraph of this review.