Frenchman Abel Tiffauges likes children, and wants to protect them against the grown-ups. Falsely suspected as child molester, he's recruited as a soldier in the 2nd World War, but very ...
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Manoel de Oliveira
Luís Miguel Cintra
Frenchman Abel Tiffauges likes children, and wants to protect them against the grown-ups. Falsely suspected as child molester, he's recruited as a soldier in the 2nd World War, but very soon he is taken prisoner of war. After shortly serving in Goerings hunting lodge, he becomes the dogsbody in Kaltenborn Castle, an elite training camp for German boys. Completely happy to take care of these children, he becomes a servant of Nazism, catching boys from the area as supplies for the camp. Written by
Frank Wallner <email@example.com>
Prior to the school fire, a caption says "Paris 1925". Upon his arrest as an adult, Abel, through his narration, remembers the fire as having happened "twenty years ago". This would place his adult scenes in 1945, but when he joins the French army after his arrest it is before the German occupation of Paris which would place his arrest in 1940. However, Abel is slow-witted and possibly does not have an accurate sense of time. See more »
Brightness is not a characteristic of the German race. We don't want brightness! People say, "Oh, so-and-so is so bright, he has such a clear mind!" No. We mistrust this brightness, this clarity. Let the new African races cultivate brightness. Our sources are in darkness. That is what drives us to unparalleled creativity.
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This 1996 film, which was not released in the U.S. until 2000 in the rental market, offers a fresh German perspective of World War II. It puts a more human face on the people of the Third Reich, much in the same way as Das Boot'. We are used to depictions of German soldiers as brutally evil, soulless killing machines (and there is a bit of that here) but this film mostly presents a softer more balanced portrayal.
This is the story of Abel, an affable simpleton from France with a love of children and animals (no, there are no undertones of pedophilia). Prior to WWII, he is wrongly accused and convicted of child molestation. While working in the work camps, he is captured by the Germans and through a series of events ends up as a prisoner of war worker in a training school for Hitler youth. He is emotionally seduced by the romantic notions of Hitler's national socialism and the great devotion to the fatherland that is being taught there. And of course, he loves working with the boys. The Germans notice this and how much the boys like him as well, so they ask him to recruit more boys for the school from the local countryside. Things go along well until the Russians invade and the only defense of the school must be made by the students (who are well trained in the art of war).
This is a terrific story that gives us a more realistic look inside Germany during the war. No, it wasn't an idyllic free society. But it wasn't exactly a factory for mechanized inhuman killers as it has been routinely portrayed either. We come to understand that what we considered evil was being presented to the children in terms that seemed good and noble. They felt as if they were on an idealistic quest, not on a diabolical mission of subjugation.
The direction of this film was expertly done. Volker Schlondorff's presentation of the story, though slow moving at times, offered an excellent character study of Abel and was patient in proffering revealing looks at the people and the feelings of those around him.
Malkovich is fantastic as the naïve and slow witted Abel. He is wonderfully childlike and sincere in his portrayal; reminiscent of his role in Of Mice and Men'. This is the best I can remember him in quite some time.
This is a poignant and compelling film of substance. I rate it a 9/10. The sophisticated viewer will enjoy it.
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