During WWI, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are eventually sent to a seemingly inescapable fortress.

Director:

Jean Renoir

Writers:

Charles Spaak (scenario and dialogue), Jean Renoir (scenario and dialogue)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

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

At the height of World War I, the German ace aviator, Captain von Rauffenstein, shoots down the plane of the aristocratic French pilot, Captain de Boeldieu, and his co-pilot, the working-class civilian mechanic, Lieutenant Maréchal, during an air-reconnaissance mission. As the captured officers find themselves in the Hallbach POW camp for officers, they befriend the wealthy former Jewish banker, Lieutenant Rosenthal, and along with a handful of determined compatriots, they organise an escape. However, fate has other plans in store for them, and shortly before the implementation of the plan, they are transferred by train to the impregnable Wintersborn fortress-prison in Alsace, France, overseen by Rauffenstein himself. More and more, respect and appreciation bond von Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu. But, will this delicate relationship, and the grand illusion, stand in the way of breaking out? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Chosen by the 1958 Brussels Film Festival As One of the Six Best Films of All Time! See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to 'The Book of Lists 2', this movie was being shown in Vienna in March, 1938, when the German Army poured into Austria during the 'Anschluss'. The movie theater was commandeered and the film was stopped mid-reel. See more »

Goofs

When Boeldieu is dead, Rauffenstein wants to close his eyes with his hand. When the hand of Rauffenstein gets close to Boeldieu, his eye moves. However, watching the scene image by image there does not seem to be any eye movement not made by the hand. See more »

Quotes

Capt. de Boeldieu: For me it's simple. A golf course is for golf. A tennis court is for tennis. A prison camp is for escaping.
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Connections

Referenced in Hugo (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Il était un petit navire
(uncredited)
Traditional French children's song
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User Reviews

 
Class(ic)!
28 May 2006 | by SpondonmanSee all my reviews

Every time I watch this I find something else I hadn't thought of before, every viewing is an augmented experience. Things I hadn't spotted at 11, 19, 22 etc I spotted last night, mostly inconsequential but still adding to the picture 36 years after my first time. That to me is the difference between great films and Great films, one of the reasons why this ostensibly simple movie is one of the all time Greats.

And it is simple (the simplest things are usually the best) - boring to some people who sadly will never understand its logic and magic - an absorbing prisoner of war tale that is also a prisoner of class tale. It defines that class loyalties are more meaningful than patriotism even if not always practical, and that to those who consider themselves to have breeding it's far more important to have "blood" than capital. Boldieu and Rauffenstein embody this, they both knew their chivalric world order was being gradually diminished - the next war will and was led by people without breeding, types like Marechal and Rosenthal who fought on. The most significant borders are not between countries, races, religions, sexes or ages but those between the classes. Renoir was at his most inspired with Illusion, with so many memorable images and set-pieces, an engrossing storyline even when down to trying to say blue eyes in German or being posh by gossipping in English, and fantastic acting by all concerned. Everything has already been covered and better in previous posts, but I would add I don't understand why Regle du jeu is the Renoir film that gets the kudos today - unless by being deliberately more obscure it appeals to influential Artheads.

The French film I love the most.


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Details

Country:

France

Language:

French | German | English | Russian

Release Date:

12 September 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Grand Illusion See more »

Filming Locations:

Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, France See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$20,356
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1937 release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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