Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children)
Year of Release: 1987
Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.
MPAA Rating: PG
Directed By: Louis Malle
Produced By: Louis Malle
Distributed By: Orion Pictures
Box Office Gross: $4,542,825 (125th Highest Grossing Film of 1988)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 96%, Audience 91%
Our story takes place in January 1944, and the setting is a monastery and provincial boarding school for boys near Fountainebleau, France. The school is a rather gloomy, old and dark place; the younger students sleep on iron frame beds in a room set up like a barracks. However, the school’s priests provide the students with patience, warmth and normalcy during a time where nothing is normal. The headmaster of the school is Father Jean, who must make do with wartime rations of crappy food and insufficient heat for the boys, all while managing to placate their wealthy parents. We soon learn that Father Jean is also providing a clandestine sanctuary for three Jewish boys. Father Jean is truly a man of God. Aside from protecting Jewish boys from the Gestapo, he provides a lecherous French gimp named Joseph a job in the school’s kitchen. Joseph rewards Father Jean’s charity by giving the boys pornography in exchange for jam.
Aside from the occasional air raid siren and German soldier entering the school’s chapel for a confessional, the boys at the school are far removed from the realities of the war, the German occupation of France, and the cloud of fascism over Europe. It is under this setting that Louis Malle tells us a story about innocence and betrayal brought upon by deeply imbedded anti-Semitism in French society.
Louis Malle uses the character of Julien Quentin, a boy of about 12, as a sort of alter ego. At the beginning of our film, Julien is set to return to school after Christmas holiday. He says a tearful goodbye to his mother on the platform of a train station in Paris…
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