Next Tuesday, April 27th, at 7 P.M., the King French Club will be hosting a Zoom showing of Au Revoir Les Enfants (“Goodbye, Children”). The award-winning autobiographical film is directed by Louis Malle and set in occupied France during World War II. The film will be shown in French with English subtitles.
The film is based on Malle’s childhood memories as an 11-year-old during the German occupation. Beyond the story of the war, it is a tale of coming of age in an all boys school. In 1944, at the Catholic boarding school of the central character, Julien, the priests take in several Jewish students under false names to protect them from the Nazis. Julien initially views one of the boys as a rival, but gradually becomes his friend. Against the backdrop of the war, the film touches on themes of youth, innocence and friendship, separation and loss, secrets and betrayal, inequality and survival, sharing and self-sacrifice, as well as the anti-semitism that permeated the period.
The film, which won seven César awards and a BAFTA, among other accolades, was produced toward the end of Malle’s career, but was a narrative he always wanted to record. At the end of a U.S. screening, famed movie critic Roger Ebert said that the director was “weeping, as he clasped my hand and said, ‘This film is my story. Now it is told at last.’”
Originally a tale too personal, intimate, and complicated to tell, Malle did not want to make his story into a movie when he first became involved in filmmaking. It was not until later when he realized he wanted to confront this part of his past. Although many characters are fictionalized, the memories are very much real, and the film’s final scene is said to be depicted exactly the way he remembered. Malle interviewed his brother, former classmates, and teachers, to ensure that everything was shown in the way they all recalled.
In many states, April is recognized as Genocide Awareness Month. It is a time to raise awareness of past and current genocide, and advocate to prevent further atrocities. April marks the the remembrance of many genocides, including Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 12 as well as remembrance of the Rwandan, Armenian, Darfur and Cambodian genocides.
The screening will be held over Zoom, similar to other school movie screenings. The following day, at home Wednesday, there will be a discussion space for the topics in the film.
Below is the trailer for Au Revoir les Enfants: