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 ... See full summary »
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Manoel de Oliveira
Luís Miguel Cintra
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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 »
Young boys are so bold and courageous. No living creatures are as noble or as beautiful-- and yet so heartbreakingly awkward. I love nothing like I love the young boys. What a privilege, to gather them all in a castle they can call their own! Mostly they trust me, but sometimes they don't. And then I can feel the part of me that is made of stone. Hard and pitiless, I force them to come with me.
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Abel is not simply slow-witted, he is morally shortchanged and has little if any ability to recognize even the reality much less the depth of his willing collaboration with the Germans. Abel is a survivor and while his concern for the children being trained as proto-Nazis in an ancient castle is real, so is his ruthlessness in collecting them by force for his German superiors with the aid of snarling Dobermans.
The film abounds in caricatures beginning with an outdoor picnic by complacent, indeed moronic, French officers who fail to even remotely perceive the danger of the onrushing Wehrmacht. Reichsmarshall Goring is portrayed as a grinning fool except when he approaches the state of barking madness. This is a legitimate dramatic device but the real Goring, cured before World War II of doctor-induced morphine addiction, was more complex and, in that sense, more interesting (decades ago I took a psychology course with Dr. Gilbert, who examined Goring at Nuremberg and wrote a book about the experience which is still available in second-hand bookshops. HIS Goring was chilling, no one to laugh at.).
The film is most effective when it eerily recreates what must have been the almost erotic attraction of nighttime rallies with flags, bunting, torches and the steady beat of martial music. That little boys were inculcated with the madness of Nazism through these rituals is powerfully shown here.
It was hard for me to care about Abel one way or the other but the character is well-acted as are the other main roles.
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