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Grand Illusion (1937)


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I found many mentions of Renoir's Grand Illusion in a search, but I couldn't find a dedicated thread for the film. Right after emailing nominations, I mentioned there was one film I especially regretted not nominating when I went through the process in a bit of a rush. This is it. If I were making a personal list of the films I find most spiritually significant, Grand Illusion would be in the top 10. Evan has mentioned in a couple threads the likelihood of a list emphasizing suffering at the expense of joy. Grand Illusion, while a war movie, isn't about the suffering of war; it's about experiencing and expressing joy in the midst of suffering. In a POW camp, two soldiers produce a comedy play that empowers their own endurance and the endurance of their fellow prisoners. The friendship shared by these two soldiers is source of joy that strengthens them throughout their time together. Most notably, the lengthy Christmas scene when the two soldiers celebrate with an enemy soldier's wife and her child brings such a tenderness that contrasts the normal reality of these two lives and is not followed by a betrayal as one would expect on first viewing. The joy the soldiers experience empowers them to carry on and endure the suffering of war.

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