By now I have seen a respectable number of films. This has made me only aware that there are so many precious, great films in film history that so far never have entered into my orbit. I am also sure that it would be a good fortune to see them. One of them I recently ran into, when I discovered in a second hand store a copy of Forbidden Games (Jeux Interdits) from the French director René Clement, made in 1952. That year it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
Forbidden Games is a movie about the horrors of war, seen through the eyes of children. It contains the finest performances ever given by children. Brigitte Fossey, who plays Paulette in the film, gives an incredible performance at the age of 5. Later she became an accomplished actress, still having an active career.
The film is set in 1940 and opens with a Luftwaffe air raid on a civilian convoy of fleeing Parisians. Paulette’s parents are killed while covering her with their bodies. Confused and terrified she is found by the 10 year old Michel, the son of a peasant couple who then provides temporary shelter to her. The film is about how the two children try to make sense of their situation and how Paulette, with the help of Michel, tries to process her trauma of loss and death.
The film has been criticised for its critical description of provincial French life. While the war is raging and children are robbed from their innocent childhood, the peasants are occupied with their own small interests, with petty quarrels with neighbours and with their own daily routines as if there was no war nor pain. Likewise the church is only occupied with its own rituals and dogmas, not being able to bring any help to the suffering people it is supposed to serve. The children are on their own trying to find ways to deal with the pain, the loss and the trauma. Their attempts to do this find no empathy and no understanding from the insensitive adults.
Child innocence destroyed by war horror. Grief never addressed by the adult world. Children’s resilience to bounce back after traumatic experience. Themes given to us in this film in a completely non-sentimental manner. I hope you are as fortunate as I felt when you get the chance to see this film!
Rinus, Aug 2019
*image used under fair use of copyright material in recommendation of the film
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