"Do you realize there will never be another January 17th, 1944?"
I'd been meaning to watch Louis Malle's autobiographical Au Revoir, Les Enfants for some time now, but I had no idea I was in for such a painfully heart-wrenching story. This is the kind of movie that makes me feel senseless for having given Robocop such a high rating.
Au Revoir, Les Enfants tells the story of a young boy, Julien Quentin, in a Catholic boarding school in the middle of Nazi-occupied France. After some initial tension, he befriends an introverted new student, Jean Bonnet. In the weeks that follow, Julien is forced to look outside his sheltered and privileged lifestyle to see the horrors that are occurring at the hands of the Nazis.
I don't know what it is, but there are so few boarding school movies/books I dislike. If..., Young Törless, Dead Poets Society, Lord of The Flies (does this qualify?). I think it's that they seem to be self-contained societies, with their own hierarchy and the friendships that arise within them that makes the stories so affecting. The relationship between Jean and Julien is no exception. If any film embodies the poignant innocence and integrity of the child, this is the one. Saying any more about what happens between the two boys might be a spoiler, so I'll stop here.
What really I love about Au Revoir, Les Enfants is the subtlety in its portrayal of the inhumanity of the Holocaust. It does this much better, in my opinion, than any film could that shows explicit images and violence. And in addition to the highly moving storyline, the film is beautifully shot. So in other words, there really is no reason not to see it. And then see every other film Louis Malle has made. You won't regret it.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars