War | French, German with English subtitles | 114 minutes
During the First World War, two French airmen, the aristocratic Captain de Boeldieu and the working-class Lieutenant Maréchal, are shot down over Germany and taken prisoner. Boeldieu and Maréchal are moved from camp to camp ending up in Wintersborn, a mountain fortress commanded by Captain (later Major) von Rauffenstein. At Wintersborn, the pair are united with a fellow prisoner, Lieutenant Rosenthal, a wealthy French Jew, who generously shares the food parcels he receives. They concoct an escape plan: Boeldieu will distract the German guards while Maréchal and Rosenthal escape. Rauffenstein attempts to stop Boeldieu by aiming his pistol at his legs. Instead he shoots Boeldieu in the stomach. In his final moments, Boeldieu and Rauffenstein find a commonality: two privileged aristocrats. They lament that their usefulness to society will end with the war. The dying Boeldieu pities Rauffenstein, his enemy but also his soul mate. Rauffenstein must now find a new life in the emerging social order that will follow the ending of the war.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 97%
- Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Film
- National Board of Review: Winner, Best Foreign Film
- New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Winner, Best Foreign Language Film
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GRAND ILLUSION is not a movie about a prison escape, nor is it jingoistic in its politics; it’s a meditation on the collapse of the old order of European civilization. Perhaps that was always a sentimental upper-class illusion, the notion that gentlemen on both sides of the lines subscribed to the same code of behavior. Whatever it was, it died in the trenches of World War I. Jean Renoir is on any list of the half-dozen greatest filmmakers.
One of the most haunting of all films. An oasis of subtlety, moral intelligence, and deep emotion on the cinematic landscape.
GRAND ILLUSION was filmed by the most humane of directors, Jean Renoir. It’s one of the greatest World War I movie ever made.
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