Au Revoir Les Enfants [VHS]

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The long shadow of Malle's autobiographical memoir of occupied France continues to fall heavily across subsequent representations of World War II, boarding school, and male adolescence--in fact, it would be difficult to identify a recent film that addresses these concerns and does not, in some substantial way, echo Au Revoir Les Enfants. The straightforward, unsentimental, gutsy Enfants finds its 12-year-old protagonist, Julien Quentin, sheltered from the conflict in a Catholic school. His classmate Jean, a new arrival, becomes first a competitor, then a beloved friend. Jean, however, hides a secret from his classmates and the Gestapo; evenly, subtly, Malle creates an atmosphere of hovering and inescapable danger. It won't take you more than a few frames to guess Jean's "secret," and many of the plot points here are too telescoped. Nevertheless, the plainspoken courage with which Malle tells his story remains wholly engrossing. The cinematography here is masterful and drunk with childlike wonder, alternating claustrophobic, wood-paneled church interiors with vivid, occasionally frightening outdoor vistas. And never is it more affecting than in the chilling scene where Justin gets lost in the woods during a seemingly innocent game of capture-the-treasure; trees and rocks flash by the running boy with an austere, impersonal beauty. Winner of seven Cesars (the French Oscars) in 1987, including Best Picture. It's in French, with subtitles; but don't let that scare you away. --Miles Bethany

Customer Reviews:

  • Au Revoir Les Enfants: Goodbye Children
    This film is a masterpiece: poignant and evocative. Long after finishing Au Revoir Les Enfants, the story will disturb is a part of history that we rarely think about anymore, the German occupation of France and the genocide of the Jews and their sympathizers.

    Louis Malle, the famous French director (1932-1995) and the late husband of actress Candace Bergen not only directed this film, but it is his story. Malle was able to find closure for an experience that had preoccupied him since the German occupation of France in World War II. When he was 12, he was sent to a Catholic boarding school near Paris where the priests and teachers kept several Jewish students hidden. They were given French names and the other boys were not told. Julien Quentin (as Malle) begs his mother not to send him; he is a thoughtful, bright, sensitive boy who has a secret; he is a bed-wetter. What a horrible place for a child who wets the bed............having to sleep with scores of other boys in a huge dormitory. In addition, it is freezing cold and there is never enough food. But there is fun and games and the teachers really care for their pupils.

    Through a series of events our young hero becomes good friends with a new student, Jean Bonnet. When Julien finds out that Jean's last name is really Kippelstein, he realizes what he has suspected for a while, that Jean is a Jew. The boys forge a friendship based on their love of books, music and their innate intelligence. Jean even eats lunch with Julien's mother and brother during parent's day. Then one day the Nazis come to class and arrest the three hidden Jews and the Priest (also the principal of the school) who protected them and send them to concentration camps. The informant was the fired kitchen worker. They also close down the school. Julien and the other children, whose lives were once so carefree, are affected by this event for the rest of their lives. In fact, their childhood is lost.

    This haunting film is very well acted, the children portray such an innocence, even during their rough housing. They are extremely believable. And, I agree with the other reviewers, the cinematography is absolutely amazing....more info
  • One of the ten best films of this decade!
    Malle made a superb picture in this autobiografical tale about the horror around the insights of a religious school in which a jew child is hidden with a false name .
    But the time has its own velvet steps and the tragedy will come.
    The bitter atmosphere you breathe under the nazi regime in the France of the forties is depicted with superb realism supported by a richness narrative and fine dialogues.
    Don't miss this supreme achievement of one of the most gifted french film maker in any time: Louis Malle!
    I really expect the DVD release !...more info
  • Essential French cinema: Malle's 'Au revoir les enfants.'
    Based on his own childhood boarding school experience, Louis Malle's (1932-1995) Au revoir les enfants ("goodbye children") (1987) tells the heartbreaking story of Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse), a young boy who befriends another student, Jean "Bonnet" Kippelstein (Rapha?l Fejt?), while attending Sainte-Croix College in Vichy during World War II. Jean is Jewish, and is attending Sainte-Croix to escape persecution in Nazi-occupied France. In January 1944, German soldiers arrive at the school and arrest the school's headmaster, Father Jean (Philippe Morier-Genoud), and three Jewish children, including Jean Bonnet, all of whom are later executed (with the exception of Father Jean, who dies at Mauthausen concentration camp). Malle's film was nominated for two awards, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay, at the 60th Academy Awards; it won the Golden Lion award at the 1987 Venice Film Festival;and at the 1988 Csar Awards, it won in seven categories, including Best Director, Best Film and Best Writing. This film is as much about friendship as it is about profound loss, and the power of a childhood experience to affect us for a lifetime.

    Criterion's superb edition of Malle's subtle coming-of-age film features a new high-definition digital transfer (supervised by director of photography Renato Berta), the original theatrical trailer, and improved English subtitles. Highly recommended.

    G. Merritt...more info
  • Extraordinarily good
    I have been viewing French movies, partly to explore new areas, and partly to study French. This is one of the best I have run across so far, seen through the eyes of an adolescent. The presentation preserves a childlike sense of awe, while dealing with complex political and moral subjects arising in occupied France. I was also delighted to find that there is a paperback put out by the French publisher "Folio," which basically tracks the French dialogue verbatim. This is useful, since the subtitles necessarily provide only rough translations, and the sometimes slangy French does not always even appear in standard dictionaries....more info
  • "Are you afraid?" "All the time."
    Occasionally, a film comes along that one takes to heart so much and that seems so perfect that it's difficult not to wonder about the critical faculties of someone who doesn't see what you see in it. Saving Private Ryan and Brokeback Mountain are two recent examples that come to my mind and Louis Malle's film Au Revoir Les Enfants from 1987 is another. At the time of it's release it was heralded as the greatest French film in a decade and at the end of the 80's it appeared on the greatest films of the decade poll published in American Film magazine. But...there were naysayers, Pauline Kael and John Simon most prominent of them. Was the film perhaps overrated?

    No need to worry. Watching it again the film is clearly a masterful work, the best film Malle ever directed and one of the few that wrings honest tears from an attentive viewer at the end. It was instructive watching it back to back with Malle's earlier Murmur of the Heart in that it shows up the problems of the earlier film and how they were all corrected with Au Revoir. The Criterion transfer is stunning...the films bleak, cold, northern European light fits perfectly with the subject matter. Watching it again clarifies just how great a work it is. It has the heartfelt emotional honesty and narrative simplicity of the greatest films, is humorous when appropriate and finally leaves one with a bracing sense of how fragile life can be. Essential viewing and recently added by Roger Ebert to his list of Greatest Films....more info
  • A Classic of European Films

    French director Louis Malle made in this one, in my opinion, his greatest work.

    Briefly -and mainly- this is the story of two kids in a catholic school during the German occupation of France.

    As always, different critics will pick up those themes that most interest him. To me this was a film about

    a) Childhood cruelty,
    b) Coming of age
    c) Social classes (as noted from the environment of a school)
    d) and religion

    Not in any particular order but all very interrelated. Also, I'd like to point out some interesting notes that caught my eye: the education environment. The relation between kids themselves, and the kids and their teachers. I was specially interested (because of the contrast with today's US) in the quality of education that was taught in France, in the spirit of discipline, respect, hard word... the underlining importance -as usual in French films- of books. Sure the French kids could be as "naughty" as US kids, but at least they would read Jules Verne or Arabian Nights. What do US kids read? That's right, nothing. They don't know Melville, Steinbeck, Jack London, Robert L. Stevenson. In US public schools kids don't read anything. They have the maid-teachers read for them. They still write on lined paper in college because they wouldn't be able to write straight (!!).

    A work of art, even more because it is not an easy-to-tell story, this one. And time practically flies while watching it. I suggest showing it to your nearest specimen of teenager. If he stands the whole movie, he is probably a happy private school kid or a miserable public shool underachiever. If he stands ten minutes only, he can still live to be a senator or even President. If he runs away at the beginning he is probably a "normal" kid. (And, unfortunately, the same applies to their parents).

    A wonderful film....more info
  • powerful in its simplicity; my all-time favorite movie
    sad (but not depressing)

    this is my all-time favorite movie .. enough said!...more info

  • Brutal betrayal but ultimately love
    "Au revoir les enfants" is an autobiographical account of the late director Louis Malle's childhood experience in occupied France. The story takes place at a boarding school for young boys. Julien Quentin, the protagonist, is a feisty, tough but vulnerable 12-year old boy. The arrival of a classmate named Jean Bonnet turns his world upside down. The other kids scorn and taunt him throughout the film but Julien becomes his friend, partly because of his curiosity of Jean's mystique and stoic nature. You will quickly guess what Jean is hiding, and the betrayal of the innocent makes this film haunting and brutal. A beautifully filmed story, sometimes the characters are a little "too beautiful" and perfect, if you know what I mean. Why does Jean have to be a beautiful child with mathematical and musical gifts? We'd love him just as much no matter how he looked. See it, feel it, and remember it....more info
  • louis malle's masterpiece
    emotionally shattering true-life tale (well, sorta) based on an incident in director louis malles youth wherein the school in which he (played by the very beautiful gaspard vanesse who sadly did not continue acting) was enrolled served as a haven for jewish students hiding out from the nazis. what could have been merely a suspense tale or a coming of age movie (and it IS both, and splendid examples of each) instead resonates as a meditation on survival, betrayal, and accomodating and forgiving oneself. a great film, but only for mature audiences.
    ...more info
  • Lost Innocence
    I had heard the "Au Revoir les Enfants" was an exceptional film and I had a pretty good idea what it was about. I watched it the other night and must admit that it IS an exceptional movie. At first I figured that it might be just another over-rated French movie as I watched a well-done production of the standard boy's school hyjinks. However, the characters were more substanitive that usual (even for a group of pre-teens nearing puberty) and the setting of France during WWII added a lot to the dramatic effect.

    You could guess what was coming but I kept getting more and more impressed by the depth of the story, supporting cast, and the way Malle let us see Occupied France. We see the collaborators, the anti-semites (somewhat redundant), the ones who buried their heads in the sand, and those brave enough to risk their lives for others. The ending is not action-filled nor overly dramatic. The ending evolves from a series of events that seem to happen too fast and then it is over. A narrator from the future puts it all into perspective as we realize we have glimpsed a scene of horror that happened too easily. Malle has given us an excellent movie and he has given his fellow French an uncomfortable (for many) look at their recent past. ...more info
  • Au Revoir Les Enfants
    Au Revoir les Enfants is a movie made in memory of one of the most inhumane periods this world has ever seen, the Holocaust. A group of French boys attend pre Jean's school in Vichy France. Called the Petit College d' Avon, this school keeps the boys safe from the harsh environment of persecution that the Nazi occupied territories are experiencing. One of the students, Julien Quentin, realizes that there won't be another January 17, 1944, and he feels like no one else thinks about death. The irony of this statement lies in that he is saying this to a Jewish boy, whose mother is in a concentration camp somewhere, and his father was missing a long time ago. He, Jean Kippelstein, a.k.a. Jean Bonnet, lives in the perpetual fear of being discovered by the German supporting Vichy government or the German soldiers who are frequently patrolling areas in the region. Everyday, there is a possibility that the German soldiers will come into the school and take away suspected boys. Jean has to hide his name, his religion, his beliefs, and his identity constantly, just to survive.
    This movie is not a dry, impersonal documentary mourning the tragedy of the numerous people persecuted during the holocaust, but a riveting account of the raw emotions felt by the people of this period. "Cruelty is pushed to its extreme horror," and people are being treated in an inhuman way, being publicly insulted, emotionally humiliated and every human right is violated. One instance of this is when the soldier asks Julien to pull his pants down to check whether he has been circumcised, and particularly to a young boy, this is extremely humiliating. However, even in these dark periods, the light of "benevolence [is] carried to its highest degree of nobility and beauty." Pre Jean is exemplary in this respect. He protects Jewish people in his church, even though he knows that this is treason, and that he could be persecuted for this noble crime. He fires Joseph, the aid, for his exchanges with the students, but his accomplices were not expelled. I believe that this is wise of Pre Jean, because if the rich and influential students leave the school, there will be absolutely nothing to prevent the government from sifting through the school for potential "enemies to the state." In his sermons, he almost openly sympathizes with the Jewish people, and takes a great risk. He preaches about the Christian need for charity, and generosity, especially in such dire circumstances. Pre Jean's commitment to the Jewish students is so concrete he protects them until he is persecuted himself for protecting them. This displays a great strength of moral fiber, and an unbreakable sense of compassion, irrelevant of religion or gender, or any other segregation.
    Guilt is another emotion that is brought out in its many dull hues during the course of the movie. Joseph's guilt in letting the boys and Pre Jean be persecuted is explored. Julien's guilt in the same case is also shown when Joseph says if he had not been fired for trading with him, he would not have had to sell the boys' lives to the Germans. This guilt hurts the young Julien, who shares a "wary and prickly'" relationship with Jean. They are friends, in a sensitive and curios manner peculiar to boys their age. Julien is drawn to the strange new boy, is jealous of his abilities, and mystified by his foreign religious beliefs. Jean gladly accepts any escape from the frequent taunting of his malicious classmates. They grow closer over youthful male sessions of forbidden and shadowy tales from distant Arabia, and energetic pieces on the piano, and stealing treats from the kitchen. In the end, Julien fells responsible for sending his friend away to an unknown but certain death.
    Au Revoir les Enfants manages to capture the real emotions experienced by people of Vichy France during the Holocaust on a level that has never been achieved before. The movie leaves the viewer with a strange sense of emotion at the characters and their individual lives.
    ...more info
  • Fantastic learning experience!
    I am a high school French teacher and I always show this film to my advanced students. I have worksheets and essays that I use to accompany the film and the students truly enjoy the movie and really get into great discussions over it. They get to see a side of the German occupation that is not studied in their history classes. I once tried showing it to lower level French students and they did not seem to appreciate the film as much as the older students -- this could be a maturity issue. Overall, 5 stars!...more info
  • Hello again, Au Revoir
    This tragic coming-of-age tale (filmed in French) is an all-time classic that took forever to make it to DVD because of a longstanding family squabble. Unlike the seemingly ancient VHS version (only 20 years old, but film decomp makes it look like WWII newsreel footage), the digital transfer solves sound and visual problems -- especially the subtitles, which were annoying oversized in the original. As for the plot -- it's long, like the movie, but in a nutshell: Jewish boy goes to German school pretending to be non-Jew during WWII in order to save his life. He forms a friendship with a non-Jewish boy at the school, and...that's all I'll say, as giving anymore away will rob you of a great movie viewing experience. If you can find it solo, buy it. If not, there's a boxed four pack of Louis Malle films that includes this one. Pricey, but the other three items(Murmur of the Heart, Lucien Lacombe, and an filmmaker's interview disk) are bonus fare. This one's worth the $80 price by itself....more info
  • Beautifully captures the innocence of childhood in a time of despair
    I have watched numerous World War Two movies, specifically those based on the Holocaust, and this is one gem that deserves a wider audience. The story depicts the exploits of a young French boy, Julien who is sent off to a Catholic boarding school in the countryside by his mother as Paris is deemed too dangerous during World War Two. At school, he encounters a new boy, Jean Bonnet, who doesn't seem to fit in with the other boys. At first the two boys view themselves as rivals in grades, but later, they form a close friendship, made all the more precious due to the secret that Jean harbors. It is a dangerous secret, one which Julien finds out through some sleuthing around, but never detracts from their friendship. This is a story about childhood innocence, and coming of age in a time when the Nazis were in power. A time when one was persecuted simply for being of an undesirable race, even children. A time when even good people who acted based on their conscience were packed off to camps. It is a beautiful movie...there is no graphic violence, but you can sense the evil that permeates the atmosphere throughout the movie...children having to hide during air raids in dark shelters, a man forced to leave a restaurant for being a Jew, and children sent off to their deaths for their racial identity. Louis Malle directs a wonderfully poignant movie that stays with you long after the credits have rolled....more info
  • A beautiful movie
    The setting is a private school for the rich run by Catholic monks in France; the time is January 1944. The story is about how 2 boys become friends, and how one, who is of a rich Paris family, learns that the other is Jewish. One day the Gestapo comes and the Jewish boy is arrested, along with the head of the school who had been hiding him there. Louis Malle, who wrote and directed the movie, said that this is based on a true story in his own childhood, and it is faithfully, even lovingly, produced - yet this parochial French setting during the Nazi occupation seems so strange and different it might have taken place on another planet. Though not much happens - the boys attend classes (in freezing rooms), fight with one another, attend church, exercise, etc. - one's interest never flags. This is mainly for two reasons: it IS so different (the boys sleep in one big dormitory room, they bathe at the public baths in town, their game of war on stilts, the wild boar in the woods, the monks in bare feet); and the tension that builds as we slowly learn of the Jewish boy and then the scene with "collaborators" in a restaurant, and then the final outrage with the Gestapo barging in on the school - it happens so subtly yet inevitably that we can't but feel morally outraged and moved at the end. An excellent film; it's also beautifully photographed. Definitely worth a watch....more info
  • Stick With It
    Most of this movie is typical detailed-look-at-not-very-much European art house fare, a bit too long and worth maybe 3 1/2 stars by itself. Malle couldn't have done it any other way, though; it's precisely the ordinariness of what has come before that makes the last ten minutes so emotionally devastating. It's been almost ten years since I saw this, and I still remember those last scenes as if it was yesterday. ...more info
  • A Magical Film About Friendship In A Terrible Time
    Louis Malle, one of the best directors to ever create film, gained his reputation through a series of semi-autobiographical films, films so heart-felt, so deeply emotional, so full of detail, they can't be anything but outstanding. "Au Revoir Les Enfants", recently released on DVD by the Criterion Collection, is my favorite of these films.

    Julien (Gaspard Manesse) has a deep-felt affection for his mother (see Malle's "Murmur of the Heart" for more on this) but he understands he will be much safer at the French boarding school in the countryside. The school, run by priests, provides a safe haven for the children of well-off families during World War II. Returning from Christmas break, the new year is uneventful for a while. Julien is a bright student and the ring leader for a bunch of boys. Julien trades items with Joseph, a poor boy who works in the kitchen, more out of amusement than anything else, but also to supplement the meager diet served by the priests. One day, a new student arrives; Jean Bonnet (Raphael Fejto), a quiet boy the other kids make fun of: "Look at Easter Bonnet." Julien also begins to notice things about the new kid; he doesn't participate in the Catholic prayers the father's lead, he doesn't eat certain things, and one night, Julien wakes up to find Jean praying over some candles. Then, Julien's attitude changes and he forms an uneasy friendship with Jean.

    Made in 1987, more than forty years after the events depicted, Julien is a thinly disguised autobiographical version of the director, as he lives a real life event from Malle's childhood. You might expect such a film to be filled with saccharin and sugar, full of fond reminiscences from his childhood. But the film is very astute at depicting the childhood as an observer might see it. We watch Julien observe things, react to things, but he is very adult for his age, giving us an adult view of the events. Because we are watching his reactions, we see his feelings, which are emotional but reserved. It is similar to a television show with a laugh track, the fake laughter cueing us to laugh. When the television show doesn't have a laugh track, they have to work harder to make us laugh. When we are watching the events unfold through Julien's eyes, Malle has to work harder to make adults feel for the characters. Because this works, every emotion is more resonant and the film is much more powerful.

    Life in the school is depicted in such a vivid fashion, it instantly becomes clear someone really lived through this period, this tale is autobiographical. The boys live in an old monastery, with very little heat. Yet, they don't seem to notice the problem much. They have endured it for so long and have become used to it, playing outside in the frigid weather, wearing shorts and coats. The classes are also very different from what we are used to today; the teachers are strict and the children tend to learn despite the circumstances of their life. Even though these children are from rich families, living in this boarding school, and they are well-cared for, they still have worries. The war is ever present. Some of the students have lost brothers, father, uncles and more. They are better off than many of their countrymen, but that doesn't mean they are comfortable.

    As the relationship between Julien and Jean grows and changes, their friendship becomes deeper. Julien is like most boys his age, anytime someone new enters the picture, they have to prove they can fit in. Jean doesn't really fit in, or for that matter, really try to. Yet, every time Julien is surrounded by a group of friends, Jean seems to long for the same camaraderie. He is better in most subjects than Jean and he seems to get the preferential treatment Julien once received. But as Julien realizes Jean is different, and begins to piece together why, he realizes Jean will never completely fit in and has to help him through this ordeal. They become friends. Thankfully, Malle also shows a lot of restraint in this area. The friendship is a gradual thing. It doesn't happen immediately, or completely, taking time to develop.

    Because the film is set in the winter of 1944, the threat of German soldiers is constant. These soldiers have occupied the small town, changing everything about the people's lives. Yet, Malle doesn't paint them as the completely evil men we have come to associate with Hitler's persona. Yes, there is always a threat, but some of their human qualities are displayed. When Julien and Jean get lost in the forest, German soldiers find them and return them to the school. One of the teachers makes a remark about the "filthy" German soldiers. The soldier responds he would like the blanket the "filthy" Germans used to keep the children warm during the ride back. During a parent visit, Julien's mother visits and takes them to a restaurant. At the restaurant a French Collaborator gives a Jewish customer a hard time. A table of German soldiers notices this and chastises the French Collaborator, humiliating him, leaving the Jewish customer to reflect in silence. The German Soldiers acted out of irritation at having their dinner interrupted, but it is interesting to watch them take the frustration out on the right person. It would have been extremely easy to paint the German soldiers as the villains we know they were. This story is told through Julien's eyes. And at the time, he wouldn't have known the full extent of the atrocities inflicted by the German army. Therefore, Malle makes some of these men seem human, giving the entire film another layer of depth. Also, during the final moments, when the Gestapo arrives at the school to investigate claims of Jewish students, their leader seems to be fairly kind and nurturing, even towards the Jewish students he uncovers. Of course, this makes him all the more monstrous. We don't expect him to take one of the children and start reading him a bedtime story. We know the fate of these children. And it is chilling. We don't really need to know what happened to them, but when Malle provides voice over narrating what happened to Jean and the other Jewish students hiding in the boarding school, we learn their fate and it causes great sadness.

    All of these different layers help to make the story seem more realistic. The boarding school is run by Pere Jean (Philippe Morier-Genoud), a strict missionary who puts up with little foolishness. But after Jean's arrival, Julien witnesses a different side of the headmaster. The fact that this Catholic priest would help Jewish children hide in his boarding school, putting him and the school at risk, is a truly courageous thing. This is yet another layer, another detail, giving the film great depth. Because no one is completely innocent, or completely bad, everyone is involved in the tale of wartime survival.

    "Au Revoir, Les Enfants" is a heartfelt, masterful film everyone should witness for themselves. Description doesn't do it justice.

    Malle also worked in American film, creating some interesting stories, the best of which is "Atlantic City" starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon in an early role.

    If you haven't experienced the work of Louis Malle, now is the time. "Elevator to the Gallows", an early Malle film, was also just released by Criterion. Check it out.
    ...more info
  • Excellent
    For those interested in history and a point of view other than their own, Au Revoir les Enfants is a good movie to watch. The curious and varied attitudes of the French during WWII are definitely reflected in this movie; from the ignorant innocence of the 12 yr. old protagonist, to the "I know nothing" attitude of his mother, to the 'resistance" oriented brother to the collaborationists represented and even Joseph, the young kitchen worker turned informer-not to mention young Bonnet and Pre Jean. It is a sensitive yet realistic movie based on the feelings of real human experience. Anyone who has known suffering or knows those who have suffered will feel something for this movie. If you're a xenophobe, deny the holocaust or believe all French in WWI were resistance fighters, don't bother with this movie. This movie is intended for people who think....more info
  • Au Revoir Les Enfants
    Goodbye, Children (Au revoir, les enfants) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.4 Import - Australia ]
    A great movie. Moving film about friendship. I can see why it won a gold award in Europe. The acting is excellent, and the movie is well worth buying. If you speak French, it's even more enjoyable. Super movie, and I highly recommended it....more info
  • 4 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    A movie that is so powerful because it is so restrained, Au Revoir Les Enfants tells the story of a tentative friendship formed between a Jewish boy hiding in a French Catholic School in the latter days of World War II; Malle tells the story without hystrionics or manipulation, making it all the more heartbreaking....more info
  • It's worth a look see
    I thought this movie was very interesting. Although I did watch it in French class and that if you don't understand French watching the subtitles can be rather boring. Plus you don't get the same feel you would get if it were in your native language. Even with that in mind, I rather liked the story because it was true. It wasn't someones perversion of what happened. It was the true story of what happened to an 11 year old boy. You can't even imagine how that would have felt. I think the movie makes you feel an insider perspective of what really happened to French Jews in 1944. Also the title of the movie was a good choice and I like how it was incorperated at the end. Notice that its "au revoir" which is goodbye but also means that I will see you again. Just something I noticed....more info
  • A Film That Is Not Easily Forgotten

    AU REVOIRE LES INFANTS is a moving coming of age film by famed French director Louis Malle. Julien Quentin, the film's protagonist, is a member of a well to do French family. He attends a Catholic boarding school during World War II which is the setting of most of the film. Julien is a sensitive, intelligent twelve year old and is considered by his teachers to be a young man with great promise. He is asked to befriend a new student Jean Bonnet, but this the young Julien finds difficult. Jean is the first student to rival the young Julien academically, and when Jean is taunted by his classmates, Julien fears risking his popularity. Eventually Julien finds in Jean the only student who shares his interests and both understands and shares his precociousness.

    There are not many surprises in this film. Germany is losing the war and the French know it, which causes the Germans to resort to bullying tactics. Jean is attending the school as a means of escaping the death camps. Eventually the school's harboring of Jews is discovered and the school is closed. Director Louis Malle accepts that viewers will know the story and this allows us to be drawn into the characters. We see good and we see evil, but we also see that blurred line between good and evil that can make any of us ask ourselves what we would do in the same situation. For this reason the film stays with the viewer and can be seen multiple times and each time a new insight can be gained.

    The critical praise of this film when it was first released is well deserved. Malle captures the atmosphere of France in 1944 perfectly. We see a defeated nation but we see glimpses of its pride returning. The boarding school is accurate and the Catholic back-story is authentic. Yet what makes this film so compelling is the superb acting of the two young actors Gaspard Manesse and Rafael Fejto as Julien and Jean respectively. Throughout the film Manesse plays Julien with an innocence that is endearing but hidden under the innocence is a sophistication that far exceeds his age. Fejto's Jean is both frightened and brave and he's able to capture a young man who would be lively and engaging if the circumstances were different.

    Perhaps the fact that the film is based on Malle's own experiences during the war is the reason for its quality, but it is a moving film that will not soon be forgotten and reminds us that good films, like good novels, have a way of staying with us.
    ...more info
  • A work of genius
    This is a masterpiece of cinema, a work of genius by the late great Louis Malle. Would that we had another like him! As in Le souffle au coeur (1971) Malle (apparently) reprises part of his childhood for us, recalling everything with the barest touch, just the slightest emphasis, without rancor or any loading of the deck. He understates and plays fair always. He has complete control of his story as he gently guides the audience. He knows what they believe and what they expect. He respects that, but he doesn't cater, and he is very gentle about leading us to the conclusion. He makes it beautiful although it is horrible.

    Gaspard Manesse as Julien and Raphael Fejto as Jean are unforgettable and a reminder that in film it's important to have a good cast. Yet, I suspect Malle could have made geniuses of any number of talented boys in their roles. This is your Catholic boys school coming of age film without lecherous priests or the brutality of children; that is, no more than is necessary, just what is real and seen in perspective, the context being the Nazi occupation of France in 1944. It is amazing how Malle manages to show the bestiality and brain dead stupidity of the Nazis by presenting them at their most gentle. If one can damn by faint praise, one can destroy by contrast. Compared to what is human and natural we see the Nazis, as their pretentious Reich is falling apart, chasing after children, obsessed with psychotic racist delusions. Through the objective eyes of the children we see the evil. Malle need only let the events speak for themselves.

    I think artists working in any medium would benefit from a study of this film. (An excellent American film by Malle also worth study is the fascinating Atlantic City (1980) starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon.) What Malle's technique teaches us is to be honest, to be fair, and to keep it simple, but not too simple. Use not a brush stroke more than necessary, and pay attention to every detail, especially the small ones. But while we can learn from and appreciate, it takes genius to pull it off. It can't be done by connecting the dots.

    I am struck by a little irony on the jacket of the video. It has an early Siskel and Ebert quote: "One of the year's best films." That's a little embarrassing unless the year is a hundred years long.

    Incidentally, the sublime and beautiful Irne Jacob, who later became a protege of Krzysztof Kieslowski in La Double vie de Vronique (1991) and Trois Couleurs: Rouge (1994), made her debut here in a small part as a piano teacher....more info

  • materpiece of two youth's bond
    The overall atmosphere of the movie is a threatening one. The historical circumstance threatens all but in particularly Jean whom the main character Julian befriends. Jean is not Catholic, he has been placed in the boarding school with the school fathers approval to hide him as well as a couple other boys. The viewer knows Jeans "secret" all along but it takes Julian a lttle time to figure it out so I'm not giving anything away. Jean lives in fear of being found out, so while the other boys lose themselves in games of play he is always on the look out & as Julian and he become friends so too is Julian on the look out. The two boys are equally gifted, both a bit precocious, and they share their enthusiasms with each other for books, for music, and for girls.
    The movies most powerful scenes are the ones where that bond is consolidated as in the scenes where the two boys are separated from the rest in a treasure hunt game. The two run for their lives from the other boys in a game of play but real life resonates within the game. The two are lost together but are found by a German patrol and returned to their school. Jean is relieved not to have been found out even though he ran when the Germans found the boys. Julian breaks down crying though, it is as if he knows instinctively just how real the game really is. Julian invites Jean to dinner when his mother comes to visit and during dinner at a posh restaurant Julian tests the petty prejudices that even someone so dear to him as his own mother holds. "Aren't we Jewish too?"
    Many of the best moments are when the war has been pushed into the background as when the whole school watches a Chaplin film. Malle pans the audience laughing while Chaplin negotiates a ships to and fro movements and then he pans the boys faces again when Chaplin courts a beautiful girl and all the boys faces are still before the mystery of it. And the scene when Julian and Jean ignore an air raid siren and remain above ground alone playing a lively jazzy piano duo together which makes them both spill over with the delight it gives them. When together they are a world of two, they read taboo passages from 1001 Arabian nights by candlelight while the other boys sleep. The joy of the movie is that their bond seems so real, their moments together seem absolutely natural.
    This film has the quiet nuances you expect from Malle but all is perhaps even more heigtened by that pervading atmosphere which threatens always to put an end to it all....more info
  • Honest life-like drama sans sentimentality
    We who are Americans have little realization what childhood in an occupied country would be like. This movie shows pre-teens being themselves against the stark reality of the world war II era in France.

    It is at once a coming of age movie and a social conscience movie, succeeding on both levels. There is a gentle humor in scenes. The drama is underplayed. The story speaks for itself and has a flow throughout. There are no great surprises, no great dramatic heights here. But there is a real story here of childhood bonding.

    This is a French film with subtitles, but don't let the subtitles keep you from enjoying this film....more info

  • Heroism of Faith
    Early Louis Malle film based on the true life story of Per Jacques. The film brings to life an understanding of true martyrdom. This is the stuff of saints such as Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, and Pere Jacques....more info
  • a beautiful and moving drama.......
    I couldn't review SCHINDLER'S LIST, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and THE GREAT DICTATOR (films related to some of the darkest saddest times in humanity, during Nazi rule) and pass up AU REVOIR, LES ENFANTS (GOODBYE, CHILDREN). This is, in my opinion, one of the finest films made by the late, great Louis Malle. It is a semi-autobiographical account of a young boy living a sheltered life in a Catholic school and the chance encounter he has with his classmate, who is first a rival and then becomes a beloved friend. This friend is concealing a secret during a time when the Nazis were cracking down on and removing Jews from schools, among other places. I don't need to say too much for you to know the gist of the plot, the pressures that the young protagonists face and the brutal reality of life that hits them smack between the eyes. This film sensitively and honestly depicts their plight, during a very dark point in history. AU REVOIR, LES ENFANTS is truly poetry for the eyes, and you will never be the same after viewing it. ...more info
  • Au Revoir Les Enfants
    Au Revoir Les Enfants is a heartbreaking movie. Set in a Catholic boarding school for boys, it's the story of a young boy trying to come to terms with the Nazi occupation of France through his friendship with a Jewish classmate who has been passed off for Catholic by the head priest. WWII is presented through the innocent eyes of a child. The film is based on the director's childhood experiences and the result is great....more info
  • swimming with emotional interest
    Despite the two lead actors being in their teens at most, this film managed to capture so much emotion and beauty while telling a typically melancholy french tale. The story line has been summarised above so I wont repeat it, but I can tell you that it neither drags on nor moves too quickly. Because of the dramatic nature of the film the subtitles don't move too quickly and are actually quite easy to follow; even so, a base knowledge of French would supplement your enjoyment of the film. Overall a compelling story of human courage in the face of inhuman evil....more info
  • The most moving movie in the history of the world.
    As a french teacher I naturally forced my class to watch this movie, and they hated it, not understanding the true beauty of the young boys love affairs. How could they? They were three young and brilliant ladies, but they didn't understand this pieve of heaven. This movie inspired me to do many things for child, and with them.

    It is the true story of two boys who form an unlikly friendship in a french boarding school during the years of World War II. As a jew I was personally touched by this moving piece of cinematic history. I can recomand it to others with happiness. Please watch this beautiful, sexual, film....more info

  • The Moose Hole - Irony: A French Holocaust Film
    Hollywood has embedded in the minds of movie-goers for generations the horrific images of the Jewish Holocaust during World War II. Though mainly dramatic presentations, there are instances where lighthearted moments are thrown in order to not leave the audience too emotionally depressed, while at the same time not allowing them to leave forgetting about one of the most brutal genocides in our history. Steven Spielberg's epic presentation, Schindler's List, is quite probably one of the most revered of the Holocaust genre, having won numerous awards including Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but there have been many others including The Pianist and Life is Beautiful. But, for one reason or another, foreign releases have failed to embrace, so to speak, this specific subject in their films as much as we have, so when one is released and praised it is only right to stand up and take notice.

    The story for Goodbye, Children, based on the childhood experiences of the film's director Louis Malle, is not so much a commentary on the loss of innocence in the midst of the ravaged countryside of France during the second world war as it is instead a direct condemnation of the ignorance of which the French enveloped themselves in during the war and the half-hearted assessment they continue to express toward the Jewish race to this day. True, the conclusion to the film in which Julien is shown starring in stark disbelief at the sight of three of his fellow classmates, including the young Bonnet with whom he had recently established a friendship with, and his mentor does strike an emotional chord, albeit less expressive then that of either Life is Beautiful or Schindler's List, but it is actions expressed by the school boys throughout the earlier portion of the film such as the smoking or the ogling of women that would appear to contradict this belief. There is quite a dramatic difference between the loss of innocence and the discovery of ignorance, the latter applying to Julien and a fair number of the boys within the French Catholic boarding school at the end of the film.

    Since this was based on the memoirs of Louis Malle, we as a collective audience have to assume that the events of the film actually took place, but as with nearly every Hollywood production, domestic or foreign, based on actual events, there are bound to be particular sequences which were fabricated in order to either liven up the mood of the picture or to have the script flow more consistently. Sadly, based on educational purposes, Goodbye, Children does not branch far from its focus on the relationship between the two boys in the boarding school, leaving those less familiar with the detailed events of World War II, specifically the assistance of the Vichy government during the Nazi occupation period in tracking down the Jews, completely lost. And though this does feature a leading character who is eventually captured by the Nazis and is sent to die in Auschwitz, this should not be dictated as a "Holocaust film" in the sense that it barely acknowledges the suffering of the Jews within the concentration camps at the hand of Nazi cruelty. It is in instances such as these that films like Schindler's List become an invaluable educational tool in bringing the suffering of the Jewish race under the Nazi regime into full view for college students.

    It is quite understandable for Malle to portray the French collaborators of the German occupation of France as individuals who are as morally corrupt, if not more so, then the Nazis themselves in part because they are fully aware of what is taking place and yet are allowing it to transpire in order to save their own necks and perhaps make a little change on the side as well. An unmitigated result of Malle venting his frustration toward those who would betray their country as the collaborators had done is that the director appears to go quite easy on the Nazis within the film, going so far as to even portray them as decent human beings. When the Nazis begin to appear sufferable that is usually the telltale sign that this obsession is being taken to an unhealthy level and needs to be quelled immediately.

    Gaspard Manesse gives an eloquent performance in the role of Julien, the protagonist of the pictures, who can easily be fathomed as the childlike reflection of the director Louis Malle on whose childhood experiences in occupied France were the basis for this film. Sadly the magnificent performance given by Manesse does not in effect make up for the lack of character development and direction. The motivations and the emotions behind the character Julien are a mystery and appear to come straight out of thin-air. For example, when Julien first meets the new student Bonnet, he snubs him and swears at him. One could apply the ancient excuse of "boys will be boys", but can anyone recall a time in their childhood when they acted as he did to a person they had just met? Raphael Fejt? performs fairly well opposite Gaspard Manesse, or at least in the scene where they are playing the piano together, and given that this is one of his first feature film roles, there is little to complain about. There are however other problems that concern the character of Bonnet that transcend the performance of the young child actor. The most apparent of which being that the screenwriters rely on a few racial stereotypes of the Jewish race - for example, the admission from Bonnet that his father worked as an accountant before the war - in order to fill out his back-story. Though the script certainly does not follow the route of the Nazis in making the Jews out to be a race to be feared and discriminated, this nonetheless would appear to be going against the message the film attempted to covey upon its audience and acts merely as a telltale sign that the French no matter how much time has passed that they are not entirely absolved of their occupation from the Nazi ideology.

    Pere Jean, the benevolent monk in charge of the Catholic boarding school for French boys, is played affectionately by Philippe Morier-Genoud. There are sure to individuals within the audience that will complain that Pere Jean is not seen enough in the film but seeing as how the story's focus is of the relationship between the two boys, Morier-Genoud screen time and his body language within those periods demonstrate a figure that is paternalistic but standoffish enough to allow the children develop without being smothered as they are at home. The scene in which Pere Jean and the three Jewish boys are rounded up by the Nazis and taken to the concentration camps, including Auschwitz, is truly a poignant moment as the boys lose not only their mentor and friend but also the only father figure some of the young children have had in their lives for the past few years.

    Overall, Goodbye Children, though undoubtedly conceived as a copious perspective of the trepidation that was the Jewish Holocaust, instead acts merely as a subservient and adolescent equivalent to the realistic, emotionally driven, and vastly superior Schindler's List, a historical masterpiece truly worthy of the recognition it has received. It is quite ironic that a film whose storyline involves Jews hidden by Christian monks in a boys boarding school during World War II would be made in France, which is undoubtedly one of the most anti-Semitic countries in all of Europe. With synagogues being blown up or burnt down and Jewish graves being vandalized with Swastikas spray painted onto them not being uncommon news in France, it is hard to imagine this film ever invoking too much of an emotional reaction from its audiences. But even if it had been well received within Malle's native land, there is little doubt that the French populous would have learned anything more of value then the American audiences had received, which was sadly very little....more info
  • Au Revoir Les Enfants
    This was a poignant and powerful movie about a young christian boy befriending a Jewish youth during World War II. This powerful story strikes a chord in those who watch it....more info
  • Everyone's responsibility
    I do not see the need to summarize the plot as this has been done by other reviewers. I certainly disagree with the one who basically says this film is not as good as Schindler's List just because it does not embrace the same kind of memorial agenda, while the purpose of this work is to testify to Louis Malle's childhood and coming of age. It so happens that people lived during WWII who did not realize the times they were going through, and this is what this film shows. However, just as it would be simplistic to portray all French as Nazi "collaborators" or as Resistance fighters, I think that certain nuances may be lost to those who can only use subtitles to understand this story. Malle is actually suggesting that everyone bears a part of responsibility for what ultimately befalls the young jews, including some people who meant well or thought well of themselves. When the German officer enters the class room at the end of this film and asks who is Jean Bonnet among the children, it is Julien who denounces him because he cannot help looking at him. Of course it's not willful, but he must have felt terrible ever after. And this horrible fate happens because the young (handicapped) cook was fired from the school, the reason being that he stole food that he was selling to some people, including students who would not have enough with the boarding diet. In fact, one of the students who traded with him was Julien's brother, the one who showed sympathies for Resistance and openly despised Vichy! Thus even the self-righteous young man is not clean for having pushed a poor guy to despair - the handicapped cook was lucky to have these monks giving work to him, and he needed to do something for a living, so he sold information to the Germans! When you look at it from this perspective, the innocent people in this film are just as much responsible for the final disaster as the clear bad guys. Which is much more interesting... and bears more similarity to my judgment of this period, and on life in general....more info
  • unlikely friendship
    Louis Malle has packaged a sensitive but ultimately brief and tragic friendship between a young parisienne at a Catholic boarding school and a jewish boy who is being hidden there by priests during the Nazi occupation. Malle, sensitively and realistically uncovers their triumphs, their foibles and shortcomings in a manner that will both move you and entertain you. The inevitible outcome weaves its way through the entire fabric of this production. Use the subtitles, have a hanky handy and be prepared for something very special....more info
  • Wonderful film
    This is a sensitively told story about friendship and war. The story is told through the eyes of 12 year old Julien, and takes place in France during 1944. The cinematography creates a cold, harsh world that reflects the attitudes of many of the adults in the film. Although the film deals with war, it also shows us the simple pleasures in the everyday lives of the boys. ...more info
  • why doesn't the DVD exist ?
    This movie is a miracle. It's also one on the rare films concerning France's darkest times. And also one of Malle's masterpieces.Why doesn't the DVD exist ??
    ...more info