The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • From 1940 to 1944, France's Vichy government collaborated with Nazi Germany. Marcel Ophüls mixes archival footage with 1969 interviews of a German officer and of collaborators and resistance fighters from Clermont-Ferrand. They comment on the nature, details and reasons for the collaboration, from anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and fear of Bolsheviks, to simple caution. Part one, "The Collapse," includes an extended interview with Pierre Mendès-France, jailed for anti-Vichy action and later France's Prime Minister. At the heart of part two, "The Choice," is an interview with Christian de la Mazière, one of 7,000 French youth to fight on the eastern front wearing German uniforms.


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  • It's not fair to say that Marcel Ophüls "interviews" his subjects. He disarms them, then let's them tell their story, quite often a very ugly story, that they'd never admit to without a few glasses of wine in them. Marcel understands that this is one of those stories you'll only hear out of the mouths of the actual players. From Prime Ministers to farmers to German officers, everyone gets the treatment. With a handful of exceptions, the story is one of willful collaboration, and... is it really fair to call shipping Jews to death camps "antisemitism"? Let's just say that all families have their secrets, and France's collective secret is that they embraced the Nazi's with vigor.

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