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.
Strolling indolently around the 1830s vibrant Parisian avenue called the Boulevard du Crime, the graceful and elusive courtesan, Garance, finds herself wrongfully accused of pickpocketing. But, amid a sea of jugglers, sideshow performers, streetwalkers, and crooks, the silently eloquent mime, Baptiste, comes to her rescue, only to hopelessly fall for her. And just like that, love's sweet torture befalls the delicate pantomimist, as the insufferable burden of knowing that the object of his desire can never belong to anyone, will heartlessly haunt him for years to come. Many have tried to seize her heart--the flamboyant thespian, Frédérick Lemaître; the criminal dandy, Pierre-François Lacenaire, and the imperious but loveless Count, Édouard de Montray--however, Garance, after so many barren years, now seems to need only one man. In the end, trusting a frail and modest rose is beautiful but cruel. Is there anyone who can accept the naked truth of an unrequited love?Written by
Several of the characters are based on real people: Frédérick Lemaître (1800 - 1876), noted French actor and playwright; Jean-Gaspard Deburau, or Debureau (1796 - 1846), a Bohemian-French actor and mime, performing at the Théâtre des Funambules; Pierre François Lacenaire (1800 - 1836) a noted French poet and murderer, and inspiration for Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment; Victor Avril, a henchman of Lacenaire. See more »
In the outdoor market scene, the amount of food laid out on the tables varies from shot to shot. The reason is that the extras were famished from years of wartime food rationing, and stole food whenever they were not closely watched. See more »
And the man in white? Do you think your friend, the mime, is happy? To think I had the absurd notion of killing him. Comical, no? One might as well stab at a breeze or a moonbeam.
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There are various alternate cuts of this film; the complete version runs 195 minutes and has been restored on video. See more »
*Enfants* is a work of genius. I won't say it's the greatest film of all time, because its scope is very narrow: the mystery of the heart, the wayward course of love, the bittersweet joy and sorrow of lovers. Maybe that isn't so narrow after all, but it doesn't cover quite as wide a spectrum as other great films (seven samurai, casablanca, mahabharata, key largo etc). Nonetheless, this film belongs in that same company, for an unsurpassed portrayal of loves lost and won, and also the passion of art, a form of love expressing itself in public creativity, enriching the lives of many. Love between lovers enriches them alone; art enriches the world.
The woman Garance is loved by 4 men in this film. Two of them, at least, are superb renditions of genius-in-creation: the mime Baptiste, and the actor Frederick. Both are geniuses, but while Baptiste is silent, weak, and sad, Frederick is loud, powerful, irrepressively optimistic, courageous and generous. He is one of the greatest characters ever to grace the screen. He has one flaw: his genius is so pure, he has a blind spot regarding the weaknesses of others. He cannot conceive of an emotion such as jealousy, and so can never play Iago - until Garance, the fallen woman, finally teaches him.
The other character who may be a genius is Lacenaire, but he is a criminal genius. Evil, twisted, burning with hatred, he has only one true and honest anchor in society - his love for Garance. It doesn't save him, but it keeps him from being as bad as he could be.
Without going into the whole plot (it's long and convoluted) the primary paradox relates to intersecting and disconnected paths of love between the characters. Garance is loved by 4 men, but she really only loves Baptiste. So does Nathalie, a sweet and simple girl, who has the courage to do what Baptiste can not: she declares her love, and so they marry and have a child. Baptiste lacks the strength to take Garance when he has the chance, and so no one is happy - except maybe Frederick, he lives as life should be lived, and even the pain of losing Garance turns to gold in the alchemy of his art.
But despite the pain, and the unhappiness, loss and death, the world of *enfants* is beautiful. It's a world where love and art mean more than success or failure, a world where money is irrelevant and the passion for life burns away the curtain between fantasy and reality. It's three hours of *paradis*!
10/10, with a bullet through the heart.
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