|YMMV • Radar • Quotes • (Funny • Heartwarming • Awesome) • Fridge • Characters • Fanfic Recs • Nightmare Fuel • Shout Out • Plot • Tear Jerker • Headscratchers • Trivia • WMG • Recap • Ho Yay • Image Links • Memes • Haiku • Laconic|
Grand Illusion (French: La Grande Illusion) is a 1937 war film directed by Jean Renoir, who co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Spaak.
During the First World War, two French aviators, aristocratic Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) and working-class Lieutenant Maréchal (Jean Gabin), embark on a flight for a reconnaissance mission. They are shot down by a German aviator and aristocrat, Captain von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim) who upon returning to base, sends a subordinate to find out if the aviators are officers and, if so, to invite them to lunch. During the meal, von Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu discover they have mutual acquaintances. From there the French aviators are moved to an officers' POW camp.
Here they are quartered in a room with other French officers, including Lieutenant Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), the son of a Jewish banker, who supplies the others with food and delicacies sent from France via the Red Cross. The officers are digging a tunnel to escape from the camp, but shortly before it is finished, they are transferred to another camp. After several transfers (and failed off-screen escape attempts), de Boeldieu, Maréchal and Rosenthal are reunited in a camp in an old castle. The commandant is Major von Rauffenstein, now invalided out of frontline duty; he feels an affinity towards fellow aristocrat de Boeldieu, and talks with him about how the World War One is bringing an end to the class they belong to and its code of honour. De Boeldieu provides the diversion necessary to permit Maréchal and Rosenthal to escape, forcing Rauffenstein to shoot him.
As Rauffenstein mourns the death of the man he wanted to be his friend, Maréchal and Rosenthal try to reach the border of neutral Switzerland on foot, but exhaustion and lack of food take their toll. They eventially find shelter in the farm of war widow Elsa (Dita Parlo) and her daughter Lotte. They stay over Christmas and Maréchal falls in love with Elsa, but eventually they have to leave because it is their duty to finish the war. Maréchal promises to return after the war and take Elsa with him to Paris.
Tropes associated with this work:
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Averted.
- Captivity Harmonica: One of the guards gives Maréchal one when he's imprisoned in a Cooler.
- Crowning Music: The battle of Die Wacht am Rhein and La Marseillaise reflecting the battle of Verdun.
- Disguised in Drag: The British officers participating in the variety show in the first camp.
- During the War
- Ear Worm: Joseph Cosma's main theme.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Lieutenant Demolder, who spends his time translating Pindar from Ancient Greek in his free time.
- Glove Slap: Does not actually occur, but their white gloves are clearly important to de Boeldieu and von Rauffenstein.
- Great Escape
- Heroic Sacrifice
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Marcel Dalio (Rosenthal) later played Émile, the croupier, in Casablanca.
- Hey, Let's Put on a Show
- I Gave My Word
- Improbable Aiming Skills
- Irony: Elsa's male relatives were all killed in the greatest German victories of the war.
- Nice Jewish Boy: Rosenthal.
- Officer and a Gentleman: Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu crank this up to 150.
- Prussia: The film avoids many stereotypes - von Rauffenstein is cultured and cosmopolitan, fluent in French and English, and the NCO in the first prison camp good-naturedly suffers the imprisoned officers calling him "Arthur".
- Token Minority: One of the French officers in the first POW camp is Senegalais.
- Tunnel King: The civil engineer.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The character of Maréchal was based on a French fighter pilot called Pinsard whom Jean Renoir had met during the war and who had made multiple escapes from German POW camps.
- The Von Trope Family
- We Need a Distraction
- World War One: The effects seen in Germany are that every able-bodied male is called up (the POW camp guards are old Landsturm militiamen), food shortages etc.
- Worthy Opponent