During the WWII, a French countryside boy, Lucien Lacombe, insouciantly gets involved and recruited by the local Gestapo, after procuring the fast-gained high-handed social position and war trophies, his life has descended into a limbo when he is enamored with a Jewish girl.
Louis Malle's Oscar-nominated WII feature clings on a well-balanced pace, concocts a carefully-conducted ideological wartime mind state from assorted kinds, mainly zooming in on the conflicting counterpoise between French-born Gestapos (there are scarcely any German has been mentioned in the film) and the fretful Jews in French. Also the resistance power as the third party has never been really put a sizable weight in the narrative line (not as in Jean-Pierre Melville's ARMY OF SHADOWS, 1969, 9/10).
The metaphor of the overpowering horror at then is constantly and insistently being dispersed by a motley slaying of various animals, killing birds, dead horse, hunting rabbits, catching a domestic hen and snapping its neck, even a dying dalmatian in the ominously poised supporting-characters-go-to-hell slaughter. All the shots emit a kind of unsettling cinematic impact on the viewers (animal lovers particularly), the message has been unmistakably transmitted, but still not recommendable.
First-timer and amateurish leading actor Pierre Blaise (who would unfortunately die in a car accident one year later) bears a tremendous balance of ennui and restlessness, an archetype of the rebellion youth, without any stage-fright to give away his newbie tag, his taciturn image can last for ever. Another great performance is from Holger Löwenadler, the Jewish father-in-law figure for Lucien, whose dignified integrity has to miserably yield to a adrenalin-driven adolescent's advance on his daughter, an exemplified cautionary tale of the misappropriation of weaponry and power. The daughter, Lucien's love interest, played by Aurore Clément, is a more opportunist symbol, oscillating between subservient lover and vengeful daughter. Among a handful of supporting roles, most of which are abruptly dissipating in the second half when the love-pursuit dominates the film, it could have been a potpourri of bountiful individual explorations, but Malle didn't opt for that way.
The bleak shots of the ghost town after curfew is an indelible testimony of the dreadful terror of the life during wartime, Malle's film outlandishly culminates in a 15 minutes bucolic spree with Lucien, the daughter and her grandmother (an almost wordless Therese Giehse, but exudes great force of hatred even for a dazed glance), living in his countryside house (bombed and deserted now), rendering the film its most telling salve to the young lost souls, one may get a belated palpitation towards our young protagonist out of detachment which for me is the pre-eminent sense through its 138 minutes running time.