In a review published by the French periodical Le Nouvel Observateur, critic Jean-Louis Bory (1974: 56-57) described Lacombe, Lucien (1974) as the first real filmand the first true filmabout the Occupation...' He added, I know. I was there'. The problematic nature of this statement is at the heart of what both Lacombe, Lucien and Au revoir les enfants (Goodbye children, 1987) seem to address, mainly the ideas of recorded history, experiences and memory. Lacombe, Lucien follows a young man, played by Pierre Blaise, caught in the collaboration movement during the German Occupation of France in 1944-1945 while Au revoir les enfants is a semi-autobiographical account of Louis Malle's time spent as a young boy in a school hiding Jewish children during the same period. Therefore, the phrase true film' is a contradiction, the films being fiction' and therefore not true'. Furthermore, the questioning of the idea of truth', and especially historical truth, can be considered the main theme for both films. When Bory says I know', we might question whether one can truly know', especially when the sole justification is presence and eye-witness accounts, as suggested by the statement, I was there'. Louis Malle was also there' but he exposes the fickle and uncertain aspects of his memory in his films and makes clear that his own memory is not a pathway to a true' and objective account of the period.
[...] Albert Horn sums up this idea when he tells Lucien, ‘it's very strange. I can't bring myself to hate you completely'. Malle (in Raskin, 1986: explains that, is this very opacity of the characters that allows all sorts of contradictory interpretations to be placed on them, developed in the name of preconceived theoretical positions.” The films do not carry a sort of grand message, and following postmodern thought-processes, there is no definite truth or knowledge being revealed. There is no judgment on the part of the filmmaker towards Lucien. [...]
[...] Malle (in Bernstein, 1988) said about Au revoir les enfants, reinvented the past in the pursuit of a haunting and timeless truth'. By remembering his own childhood and individual war experience, he provided what appears to be a fairly accurate account of the period as recollected by himself. Despite the fact that it is semi-autobiographical, it can be read as a portrait of a section of society and of childhood under the Occupation. It is also a personal journey of grieving for the ‘real' life event that the young Louis Malle and his peers endured during the raid carried out by the Gestapo on their school. [...]
[...] Indeed, through switches in viewpoints and a particular rhetorical stance, which, despite being subjective, offers no complete summary of the past or its individual stories, the films offer an open-ended alternative to the accepted representations of historical events. In conclusion, Malle's concept of ‘reinventing the past' denies his films the status of documentary and his search for haunting and timeless truth' means that they cannot be placed in the canon of traditional historical fiction, since he purposely plays with the idea of a story based on ‘real' historical events and memories. [...]
[...] Indeed, the narratives of Lacombe, Lucien and Au revoir les enfants, although chronological in form, do not appear to fit within what is normally accepted as the format for historical reconstructions or the traditional narratives present in war film. Frey (2004: 96) argues that, within the realist detail provided, more fragmented puzzle is constructed by the director.' Although on the surface the typical story development comprising of a beginning, middle and an end seems to be adhered to, there is at times a feeling that the action is fragmented and happening in a separate time- space. [...]
[...] The Journal of Modern History 457-482. Jeancolas, J. (1975, June). Fonction du témoignage. Positif p Kael, P. (1988, February 22). Review of Au revoir les enfants. New Yorker , pp. 85-86. Malle, L. (1989). Au revoir les enfants & Lacombe, Lucien. London: Faber and Faber. Malle, L. (Writer), & Malle, L. (Director). (1987). Au revoir les enfants [Motion Picture]. Malle, L. (1993). Malle on Malle. (P. French, Ed.) London: Faber and Faber. Malle, L., Modiano, P. (Writers), & Malle, L. [...]
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