Calling on his own experiences as an aviator in WWI as well as those of his comrades, Jean Renoir's antiwar masterpiece bids farewell to the class constrictions of European society and calls for the unity of humankind across class and national boundaries. Set in the German prison camps of WWI, the film stars Jean Gabin as Marechal, and Marcel Dalio as Rosenthal. Like the charming aristocrat de Boldieu (Pierre Fresnay), these two French aviators were shot down and now spend most of their time escaping from German prison camps before inevitably being recaptured. Between escapes, they do what they can to amuse themselves, which includes running a talent show, but after a tunnel they've dug is discovered, the three are sent to Wintersborn, a forbidding fortress of a prison, which is commanded by former ace pilot von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim). The humane commandant practices noblesse oblige toward de Boldieu, hoping for an alliance across national lines. But he comes to learn that this phrase has a different meaning for the Frenchman. One of the great films of all time, GRAND ILLUSION perhaps most purely embodies director Jean Renoir's characterstic humanism, manifested less here in camera technique than an instinctive ability to educe truthful performances from his cast.
Jean Renoir - Director/Writer/Producer
Jean Gabin - French Actor
Pierre Fresnay - French Actor
Erich Von Stroheim - Director/Actor/Screenwriter
Erich von Stroheim - Director/Actor/Screenwriter
Frank Rollmer - Producer
Albert Pinkovitch - Producer, GRAND ILLUSION
Marcel Dalio - French Actor
Israel Blauschild - French Actor
Carette - FRENCH ACTOR\"JULIAN"
Julien Carette - FRENCH ACTOR\"JULIAN"
Dita Parlo - German Actress/In France
Charles Spaak - BELGIAN WRITER/DIRECTOR
Jean Renoir's brilliant farewell to Europe's ancient regime, GRAND ILLUSION, set during WWI, stars Jean Gabin as Marechal and Marcel Dalio as Rosenthal, French prisoners of war who constantly escape from prison only to be recaptured. Along with the gracious aristocrat de Boldieu (Pierre Fresnay), they're moved to the fortresslike Wintersborn prison, from which no one has escaped. The commandant of the prison is the ace German pilot von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim), now grounded by injury. Despite humane treatment, the Frenchmen plan to escape once again.
Theatrical release: June 1937. The film was shot in Colmar, Neuf-Brisach, and Haut Koenigsberg. Orson Welles once said, "If I had to save only one film in the world, it would be GRAND ILLUSION." LA GRANDE ILLUSION won an award at the Venice Film Festival as well as the New York Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Film in 1938. (This was the first time such an award was given by the critics.) Its pacifist views, however, were none too popular with the emerging fascist governments of Germany and Italy, who banned the film.
"...[A] masterpiece..." -- Rating: A - 08/20/1999 Entertainment Weekly, p.100
"...One of the greatest films ever made....The performances -- from Gabin, Pierre Frensay, Erich von Stroheim and Marcel Dalio -- are as fresh as they were in 1937..." - 12/16/1999 Los Angeles Times, p.C47
"...It's a meditation on the collapse of the old order of European civilization....There is a quiet voluptuousness; the camera doesn't point or intrude, but glides..." - 10/03/1999 Chicago Sun-Times, p.5
"In '38: a New York Film Critics best-direction citation to Jean Renoir and a best-picture Oscar nomination." - 02/15/2005 USA Today, p.6D
"[An] anti-war classic....As in so much of Renoir's work, it's the humanism that resonates most strongly." - 01/01/2007 Sight and Sound, p.89
5 stars out of 5 -- "[A] compassionate, ambiguous work....Beautifully acted, photographed and designed, it ranks proudly alongside THE RULES OF THE GAME as Renoir at his stunning best." - 05/01/2012 Total Film