Au revoir les enfants
Bottom Line: If Schindler’s List were set in a boarding school, Au revoir les enfants would be the result.
Directed by: Louis Malle
Starring: Francine Racette, Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejto
Reverent Holocaust drama encapsulates the story of Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse), a student who arrives at a Catholic boarding school during World War II. The school has always been safe from any threat of war, until Jean Bonnet (Raphael Fejtö) arrives as a student. Julien befriends Jean upon learning that he is Jewish and he has been sent to boarding school to keep safe from Nazis, and swears not to tell anyone of it. Upon the arrival of a Nazi investigation, both become afraid that Jean’s secret will be discovered.
AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS (or Goodbye, Children, as it translates in English) is quite a terse film, and even more when it is considered that this has been known as the semi-autobiographical story of Louis Malle, who directed, wrote, and (without credit) produced it. Its length, however, seems to have no impact on it as an emotional, empathetic visual story. This film isn’t SCHINDLER’S LIST, mind you; it is in no way a long saga, nor does it briefly convey the experiences of millions of Jews who suffered from the Holocaust. Instead, we have here an even more compelling and riveting story. We feel even more sympathy when we learn to understand a character as a person, and eventually move to understanding his emotional reactions when he realizes he may never again see his best friend.
Have you ever watched a film and almost immediately wanted to pop it back into the DVD player and watch it over again? That’s the feeling I had when I watched AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS. In fact, I realize as I’m typing this that it’s probably a film that would endure at least thirty consecutive viewings before it would grow tiring to watch. I wouldn’t say I’m adamant when it comes to learning about the Holocaust, or even World War II in general, but this film especially gave me a step or two up from where I was regarding my interest in the subject. That said, AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS is just a shade off absolute perfection. The few scenes that manage to let go of your interest are what keep me from giving this an A+. Nonetheless, it’s a film everyone should see.