La Grande illusion (Grand Illusion) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

La Grande illusion (Grand Illusion) Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ September 26, 2013
An apparently simple yet notably complex film that uses a subtle approach to explore a gamut of humanistic themes while Renoir avoids any sort of sentimentality, which can also be seen from the elegant way his camera appears to float, unaffected, among the characters.
Bathsheba Monk
Super Reviewer
July 7, 2012
This movie expertly depicts class warfare--no, it's not a new thing, it's been around forever competing with nationalism. As a college student in Germany, I had to watch this movie about 5 times and dissect it from all angles: historical, sociological, as well as literature and I never got sick of it. This movie really depicts the utter senselessness of war--how lost soldiers will take up with enemy women for succor and warmth and vice versa and how the officers (the aristocrats of the day, the 1%)inhabit a much different world than the hoi polloi. I am looking forward to seeing the remastered film as when I saw it, it was physically pretty damaged.
Super Reviewer
May 6, 2011
Experiência cinematografica cinco estrelas. Um filme que quase desapareceu da história do cinema mundial.
Super Reviewer
½ January 31, 2011
A powerful forefather in promoting a political ideology through narrative film, Grand Illusion is at least fifty times more sensible than Birth of a Nation in that regard. I'm really not sure how I feel about the third act, though. It's touching...but completely without conflict. I guess it speaks to a simpler time in film, where economy of writing wasn't of absolute importance and not every moment in the screenplay had to fulfill some greater mechanical purpose, but it stresses its point in an awfully longwinded way.
Super Reviewer
½ September 9, 2009
The film is consistently ranked as one of the brightest stars in the cinematic firmament. It's a notoriety that unfortunately detracts from a modern moviegoer's first viewing of the picture. Is it the greatest masterpiece ever committed to celluloid? Hardly, but the terrific characterizations subtly reinforce the futility of combat. Why are these honorable people fighting? Director and co-writer Jean Renoir's experiences as a soldier shape much of his view of it as a "war of gentlemen". Perhaps a poignant lament of an attitude that the world on the brink of another global conflict, would never see again. This is a war film without a single battle and only one death. The portrait is such an anomaly in this genre. An overly idealistic view to be sure, but too eloquent to forget.
Super Reviewer
½ February 8, 2011
I feel like I will be killed for not giving it 5 stars. The acting is unstoppable and I understand the message about a new social order coming to uproot the old, but it just didn't blow me away. Ok, you can kill me now
Super Reviewer
January 24, 2007
often considered one of the great films of all time, grand illusion is a war epic set in a perfect 3 act structure. possibly renoir's best directing job and gabin was brilliant as always. the portrayal of the war was surprising but eye opening and the escape sequence was crafted well. a true classic.
Super Reviewer
½ January 11, 2009
A series of German POW camps provide Renior's La Grande Illusion with a framework from which to illustrate social inequity. Two captured French airmen, one a well-to-do career officer and the other a former mechanic, discover that, even in prison, their class distinctions still wedge them apart. This socio-political undercurrent adds to the tension as the prisoners work feverishly to effect an escape.

A milestone film that no doubt influenced later offerings like Stalag 17 (1953), The Great Escape (1963) and Hart's War (2002).
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
½ July 20, 2009
"Grand Illusion" is yet another film that was up for Best Picture in 1938, the only foreign-language film so honored. It's quite ironic that at the very time Nazi Germany was plotting to crush France and annihilate Jews, Communists, and homosexuals, the French filmmaker Jean Renoir was creating an anti-war film that humanized Germans.

Set in World War I, "Grand Illusion" presents French and German soldiers as sharing a common humanity. The Germans who run a prisoner-of-war camp are humane, balanced and thoughtful. They think highly of their French prisoners and rub shoulders with them frequently. The head of the camp (played by Erich von Stroheim) is an aristocrat who cares more about music and literature than warfare. The idea that French and German people are different is presented as a ridiculous illusion.

The film ends well, but there are so many dull passages to endure before you get there. The direction is also terribly pedestrian. Renoir never does a single interesting thing with the camera. The script moves along too slowly, and the artless direction only makes it worse. I like what the film has to say, but I'm not very impressed with how it says it. In addition to more flavorful direction and snappier editing, the film needed more story development. There is simply not enough drama or characterization.

Only in the last 30 minutes did I really start to care, when there's a fabulous sequence between two escaped prisoners and an angelic German widow they befriend on their march to the Swiss border. This final sequence had a spiritual and emotional quality that the first three-quarters of the film lacked.
Super Reviewer
½ November 18, 2007
it's the mother of all prison escape films!
Super Reviewer
February 16, 2008
I guess I was expecting more. Good film overall.
Super Reviewer
November 2, 2006
It might get a little droll but the ending is well worth it.
Super Reviewer
April 17, 2013
Grand Illusion was gutsy for its era in providing a critique of war in an era when war seemed inevitable. There is humour, emotion and pure humanity.
Super Reviewer
½ May 7, 2012
Many see in this celebrated film the 'humanism' of Jean Renoir but seem to miss the pessimism that goes along with it. Yes, there are some extremely humanistic scenes here (like the very touching scene in which a German guard gives cigarettes and plays the harmonica to calm a distressed Jean Gabin), but 'humanism' here only means a sympathetic view on human predicament. For example the isolation (which is a class isolation) of Von Rauffenstein (Stroheim) and his need for an 'equal' friendship is touching despite his ideas about nobility being problematic. In fact all the characters can be seen under a sympathetic light but at the same time, their behaviour is part of the whole problem which is war and conflict. It is astonishing how this film hides its true pessimistic identity under the charm of a comedy of manners. But manners -differences and similarities in them- are what lies at the core of the film, and how they create conflict. For example see the first shot at the French bar with Gabin listening to music and then see the equivalent of the German bar after Rauffenstein has shot the French plane. (Notice that we learn that the plane was shot only by dialogue; in other words Renoir looses the chance to present us with an exciting action scene, a plane-fight, that a Hollywood director would have seized immediately, only to sustain the rhythm of the film and juxtapose the two scenes.) There's a symmetrical feeling in many instances in the film, a juxtaposition of sides - they are the same and yet different.
Notice also the tune the prisoners play during the escape - the actual song (although we do not hear the lyrics, it is a famous song) of that song are brutal and very relevant to the pessimism of the film. The somewhat obscure title also betrays that, if we take it that the words of the protagonists at the end of the film are the key to interpreting it: the great illusion is that the war will quickly end. Renoir who took part on the great war himself was surely aware about the attitude of people to the war at the beginning of it. They all were cheerful and sure that the world would end in the first months after its beginning (Stephan Zweig gives a nice description of European psychology at the time in his The World of Yesterday). The film ridicules this attitude as well as the manners and chivalry during the war (see Rauffenstein inviting his new prisoners to dinner). But the statement of the film, that the illusion is that the war will end, transcends the WWI context and becomes, unintentionally maybe, a description of human nature in general - a nature which can take so many different forms (Russians, Germans, French, English) and yet is so much the same; a nature which has war in its very nature. The last long shot with the two escapees walking in the snow, crossing the borders, while we know that they are going back to their army to continue the fight couldn't be a more pessimistic end then.
Super Reviewer
½ December 14, 2008
During an interview with Dick Cavett during the mid-'70s, Woody Allen proclaimed that he considered only 2 films as true works of art: one was L'Avventura, and the other was Grand Illusion.

My expectations were quite lofty so the experience was something of a letdown. Nevertheless, Grand Illusion influenced such great films as Stalag-17 and Casablanca with a not-quite-as-stirring rendition of 'La Marsellaise' that enrages German officers. The messages of similarity beyond borders & politics and the hypocrisies of war still ring true. This is as languidly paced a war film as you're likely to see, especially following the final escape attempt. I appreciate the historical importance of Grand Illusion but prefer the greater complexity and urgency of several of its followers.
Over the Rising Sun
Super Reviewer
August 19, 2010
A French WWI war prison film that's not as much technically brilliant as it successfully expresses the moral, philosophical, and humanistic errors of war, as well as benefiting from an acute sense of humor and Jean Gabin's performance. The anti-semetic remarks near the end were a little uncalled for though. 99/100
Super Reviewer
July 1, 2010
Aside from it being generally praised as one of the finest films ever made, it's also unique in its presentation of its anti-war message with utmost simplicity. Half of "Grand Illusion" dealt with French soldiers in a German prison camp, and their constant plans for escapes. With these basic premises, one can predict that the prison guards in the film were no less than tyrannical madmen, headed by a (insert negative trait here)general. But no, Jean Renoir explained it himself in the film's introduction, "It's a war of gentlemen". It's a conflict fueled not by grudges but more of noble obligations. Many sequences furthered this point, with guards socializing with the prisoners with mutual respect and uncommon camaraderie. Many anti-war films strengthened their aims by highlighting war violence as the main catalyst of madness, but once again, "Grand Illusion" is an exception, and considering the time it was made, its revolutionary stance for pacifism was inclined more for the simple idea of soldiers reuniting with families, and coming back for mundane leisure activities, not with cinematic overkill of armchair politics. Erich Von Stroheim, whom I first saw on screen as Norma Desmond's enigmatic butler in "Sunset Blvd.", is unforgettable as Rauffenstein.
August 15, 2008
The first ever Criterion DVD release is a real dazzler, and a beauty of a black-and-white digital transfer, restoring Jean Renoir's war classic to its former glory. Grand Illusion is a World War I story about French POWs who are given respect by their German captors, led by an amazing Erich Von Stroheim. One prisoner (Pierre Fresnay) is an aristocrat who forms a bond with his German peer, but also gives aid to his fellow prisoners, working class Jean Gabin and Jewish soldier Marcel Dalio, plotting an escape. The film escalates to an emotional climax that tears down the illusions any have about war and honor, and had such a powerful impact that the Nazis immediately banned it upon occupying France. Check the interview with Renoir where he talks about how his controversial film was once found in Germany by American soldiers in 1945. Grand Illusion--see it, love it.
½ February 5, 2014
"You're a poor cow, I'm a poor soldier. We each do what we can." -- it's refreshing to watch a movie with a very subtle anti-war message, and La Grande Illusion does that masterfully while earning its cinematic moments.
½ September 27, 2013
A war movie that is not even about war, but the people in it. The plot is so simple, but the meaning is so profound. Jean Renoir shows that everyone at war are just normal people who had normal lives before going into battle. They still have a duty to their country, but they try to hold on to whatever past they still have. Where most war movies like to preach, this movie keeps things grounded and the characters are as natural as the movie itself. Little moments in the movie show how human interaction is much more important than what language the other person speaks. There's the German captain who tries to befriend a French pilot and the other French pilot who falls in love with a German widow. The scene where one of the French pilots is put into solitary and he begs to be release so he can talk to someone and not be alone. This is what Grand Illusion is all about. It is about characters crossing social boundaries to have a sense that they are not alone in the world. This may be an old foreign film, but the language is universal.

Grade: A
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