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La Grande Illusion (1937)
"La grande illusion" (original title)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, War  |  12 September 1938 (USA)
8.2
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 24,033 users  
Reviews: 119 user | 114 critic

During the first World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.

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(scenario and dialogue), (scenario and dialogue)
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Title: La Grande Illusion (1937)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Dita Parlo ...
...
Le captaine de Boeldieu
...
Le captaine von Rauffenstein (as Eric von Stroheim)
Julien Carette ...
Cartier - l'acteur (as Carette)
Georges Péclet ...
Le serrurier (as Peclet)
Werner Florian ...
Le sergent Arthur
Jean Dasté ...
L'instituteur (as Daste)
Sylvain Itkine ...
Le lieutenant Demolder (as Itkine)
Gaston Modot ...
L'ingénieur (as Modot)
...
Le lieutenant Rosenthal (as Dalio)
Edit

Storyline

During 1st WW, two French officers are captured. Captain De Boeldieu is an aristocrat while Lieutenant Marechal was a mechanic in civilian life. They meet other prisoners from various backgrounds, as Rosenthal, son of wealthy Jewish bankers. They are separated from Rosenthal before managing to escape. A few months later, they meet again in a fortress commanded by the aristocrat Van Rauffenstein. De Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with him but Marechal and Rosenthal still want to escape... Written by Yepok

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A Great Drama of Human Emotions See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| | |

Release Date:

12 September 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Grand Illusion  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$50,793 (USA) (13 August 1999)

Gross:

$172,885 (USA) (30 November 2012)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1937 release)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

For the script, Jean Renoir and screenwriter Charles Spaak drew from Jean des Vallieres' book "Kavalier Scharnhost" without acknowledgment. This led to a plagiarist suit in court. See more »

Goofs

As the WWI German soldiers are celebrating a French fort's capture, the map on the wall of the officers club is clearly an inter-war (1919-1938) map of Germany. See more »

Quotes

Capt. de Boeldieu: May I ask you a question?
Capt. von Rauffenstein: Of course.
Capt. de Boeldieu: Why did you make an exception of me by inviting me here?
Capt. von Rauffenstein: Because your name is Boeldieu, career officer in the French Army. And I am Rauffenstein, career officer in the Imperial German Army.
Capt. de Boeldieu: But my comrades are officers as well.
Capt. von Rauffenstein: A 'Maréchal' and 'Rosenthal,' officers?
Capt. de Boeldieu: They're fine soldiers.
Capt. von Rauffenstein: Charming legacy of the French Revolution.
Capt. de Boeldieu: Neither you nor I can stop the march of time.
Capt. von Rauffenstein: Boldieu, I don't know who will win this war, but whatever the outcome, it will mean...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Shawshank Redemption (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary
(1912) (uncredited)
Written by Jack Judge and Harry Williams
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User Reviews

Classic film on the death of ancient regimes
21 March 2000 | by (Catonsville, MD) – See all my reviews

In the old European order, pre-WWI, one nation's aristocracy made war on another's not out of love for king and country or hatred for the enemy, but out of a sense of honor and duty. War was what they did, these aristocrats of l'ancien regime. Their castles in the air, their noble worldview, their time-honored way--all would crumble, as they very well knew, if the line between the rabble and themselves were allowed to continue to blur. The masses had new and different loyalties.

"La Grande Illusion" in 1914 was the hope that that old order could be preserved in the face of surging democracy and noveau-riche power. Jean Renoir's film presents us with an irony: the martial elites of France and Germany needed the war to vouchsafe their very identities, and yet that conflict would prove their undoing. Whatever side won, the hoi polloi would gain the upper hand.

Restored from its original camera negative, the 1937 French film now on DVD sparkles like new. The restoration lets us see that nothing is dated about this work of genius, even if its POW-camp situations today seem stock and its characters stereotypes of nationality and class. The fine acting, the deft pacing, and the fluid camerawork make for a film that could have been produced last year. The whispered subtext, the nuanced conflicts, and the ironic complexity make for a film that is timeless.

The subtext is the eternal tension between "in the air" and "on the ground," "on high" and "here below," "from a distance" and "up close and personal." From a distance, war is no more rancorous than a chess game, with national boundaries as artificial as the squares on a chessboard. Up close and personal, war separates humans from their lives and aspirations, lovers from their beloveds.

The old elites loved nothing but their class and its accoutrements. It was peasant stock and noveau riche who belted out national anthems and honored the borders which in wartime could sever lover from lover but, paradoxically, also shield prison-camp escapees who made it across them to sanctuary. Renoir's genius was that he could show that an emergent new order, manifestly better on the ground, comes at a steep price, tragically, in the air.


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