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La grande illusion (French with English subtitles)
Main screening room
March 4th, 2024
113 min
The Great Escapes

Cinema has always been fond of escape stories. Whether epic or intimate stories, war or prison film, tragedy or comedy, these tales reflect the injustices, violence and conflicts that tear people apart, as well as their propensity for solidarity and compassion. The inventiveness the characters devote to escaping is reminiscent of that of filmmakers who stage their imprisonment in order to better break it down: an always meticulous game, set against a backdrop of spatial constraints and a race against time.

La grande illusion
Directed by
Jean Renoir
French with English subtitles
Jean Gabin, Erich von Stroheim, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay
113 min
Drama, war

First World War. Two French soldiers are taken prisoner by Commander von Rauffenstein, a refined and respectful German. Taken to a prison camp, they help their roommates dig a secret tunnel. But on the eve of their escape, the prisoners were transferred. They were finally taken to a high-security fortress run by von Rauffenstein. He treated the prisoners with courtesy, even befriending Boeldieu. But the French officers were planning a new escape.

La grande illusion

Jean Renoir

Second son of the famous painter Auguste Renoir, his films had a profound impact on the mutations of French cinema between 1930 and 1950, paving the way for the New Wave. After fighting in the army during the First World War, he directed his wife and older brother in his first film in 1924, La fille de l'eau. It wasn't a great success, but young Jean, with his passion for cinema, didn't give up. His career really took off with La chienne, in 1931. La grande illusion, starring Jean Gabin, and La règle du jeu are now considered major masterpieces of world cinema. In the early 40s, with war declared, he moved to Hollywood. He made a number of films there, including Vivre libre, L'homme du sud, Le journal d'une femme de chambre, but they were not very successful. He decided to return to France in the early 50s. In 1962, he made his last feature film, Le caporal épinglé, and in 1975, he received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement, before dying four years later in Beverly Hills, California.


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Les grandes évasions

Si les évasions ont toujours été objet de fascination, c’est peut-être parce qu’elles requièrent autant de précision technique que d’opiniâtreté morale.

« The story of La grande illusion is rigorously true and has been told to me by several of my war comrades… I am obviously talking about the one of 1914. In 1914, there had not yet been Hitler. There hadn't been the Nazis, who almost succeeded in making people forget that the Germans are also human beings. In 1914, the minds of men had not yet been distorted by totalitarian religions and racism. In some ways this world war was still a war of gentlemen, of well-bred people, I almost dare say a war. »
Jean Renoir
About La grande illusion
Full cast

L'histoire du film est un véritable roman. Comme tant de grandes oeuvres, il s'en fallut de peu qu'il ne se fasse jamais.

Le Monde, 2012

La grande illusion - Critics' Picks - New York Times
About Jean Renoir
Filmography | director