Friday, 11 July 2014



FILM 1170: LA GRANDE ILLUSION

TRIVIA: This is the first film in the prestigious Criterion Collection (spine #1).

Goebbels made sure that the film's print was one of the first things seized by the Germans when they occupied France. He referred to Jean Renoir as "Cinematic Public Enemy Number 1". For many years it was assumed that the film had been destroyed in an Allied air raid in 1942. However, a German film archivist named Frank Hansel, then a Nazi officer in Paris, had actually smuggled it back to Berlin. Then when the Russians entered Berlin in 1945, the film found its way to an archive in Moscow. When Jean Renoir came to restore his film in the 1960s, he knew nothing of Hansel's acquisition and was working from an old muddy print. Purely by coincidence at the same time, the Russian archive swapped some material with an archive in Toulouse. Included in that exchange was the original negative print. However, because so many prints of the film existed at the time, it would be another 30 years before anyone realised that the version in Toulouse was actually the original negative.

The little girl who played "Lotte" never saw the film, having died of the flu some weeks before the film was released.

The uniform worn by Jean Gabin was actually owned and worn by Jean Renoir, who served in the air force during WWI.

The movie title "La Grande Illusion" is a reference to the pre-war book "The Great Illusion" by Norman Angell, which argued that war was outmoded, unscientific, and absurd. Though little-known today, it was a tremendous sensation when first published in 1913, and was often cited as evidence that a long European war "could not happen". Renoir aptly picks the title for his own work, knowing that his audience would recognize the reference.

The first foreign language film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (French).

Frequently cited by Woody Allen as the finest picture ever made.

This pacifist war film shows no combat at all.

Cited by actor Christopher Plummer as the film that brought him to tears more often than any other in his lifetime.


Jean Renoir had to work quickly in order to catch the winter snows before they melted. When they did, plaster was used instead.

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