Au Revoir, Les Enfants


1h 44m 1987
Au Revoir, Les Enfants

Brief Synopsis

A French boarding school harbors Jewish children during the Nazi occupation.

Film Details

Also Known As
Adios Muchachos, Au Revoir, Les Enfants, Vaarwel kinderen, Vi ses igen, barn!
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
War
Foreign
Period
Release Date
1987
Location
Paris, France; Provence, France

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m

Synopsis

The filmmaker's autobiographical account of his childhood friendship, at a Catholic boarding school in 1944, with a Jewish boy the headmaster is trying to save by hiding him under a false name.

Film Details

Also Known As
Adios Muchachos, Au Revoir, Les Enfants, Vaarwel kinderen, Vi ses igen, barn!
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
War
Foreign
Period
Release Date
1987
Location
Paris, France; Provence, France

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m

Award Nominations

Best Foreign Language Film

1987

Best Original Screenplay

1987

Articles

Au Revoir, Les Enfants


Drawn as it was from a boyhood incident in wartime France that would haunt him his entire life, it's not surprising that Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987) should be largely regarded as the most personal and resonant effort from director Louis Malle's distinguished body of work. Intelligently and believably played by its young amateur principals, the film offers a credible, unsentimental portrait of adolescent friendship, and a wrenching study of how the abstract horrors of the Nazi occupation became all too immediate for the director's surrogate/protagonist.

Malle's narrative commences in January 1944, when 12-year old Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse) is being packed off from his Paris home to resume his studies at St. Croix, an exclusive Carmelite boarding school in the Ile de France. By and large, the privileged, intellectually precocious Julien maintains a contemptuous distance from the bulk of his classmates. It's not long into the semester, however, when the headmaster Pere Jean (Philippe Morier-Genoud) unexpectedly introduces three new boys to the school, including the contemplative Jean Bonnet (Raphael Fejto). While initially regarding the newcomer with hostility, Julien comes to recognize a kindred spirit in Jean's native intelligence and outsider posture.

While events begin to forge a tentative bond between the boys, Julien remains piqued regarding Jean's vague and inconsistent accounts of his family life. His rummaging through Bonnet's belongings leads to the discovery that "Jean Bonnet" is in fact Jean Kippelstein, and that he and the other new inductees are refugee Jews whom Pere Jean has sought to covertly sequester from the Nazis. Although Jean is enraged when Julien confronts him with the truth, the incident is shortly forgotten, and the two go on with their lives.

All changes for the worst when a vengeful expelled student (Francois Negret) goes to the Gestapo with his beliefs about Pere Jean's activities. When the SS bursts into the classroom, all it takes is a furtive glance from Julien to Jean to spur the soldiers into leading him away, and Julien can only watch with crushing regret as Pere Jean and those he sought to shield are lead off to their fates.

In Philip French's definitive interview Malle on Malle, the director was candid about the lifelong impact of the factual circumstances that had inspired him. "For years I just didn't want to deal with it, but it had an enormous influence on the rest of my life...It's hard to explain, but it was such a shock that it took me several years to get over it, to try to understand it--and, of course, there was no way I could understand it. What happened was so appalling and so fundamentally opposed to all the values that we were being taught, that I concluded that there was something wrong with the world, and I started becoming very rebellious."

As to the two young unknowns cast to shoulder his story, Malle told French, "I knew even before I started writing the screenplay that the film would succeed or fail on the casting... I hesitated for a while between [Manesse] and another boy, but there was something about Gaspard: he was like quicksilver, he was so alive, very sharp and insolent. Arrogant and shy at the same time. When we started reading with him I could see he was on pitch... The boys very quickly became so confident, they seem to master the technical difficulties of film acting so easily, that sometimes I had to be hard on them because it was almost too easy for them," the filmmaker stated.

Au Revoir, Les Enfants met with almost universal praise upon its release, and Malle wholly anticipated that the wave of acclaim would culminate with its obtaining the 1987 Oscar® for Best Foreign Film, so much so that he was personally devastated when the prize was given instead to Babette's Feast (1987). The film may not have garnered Malle the Academy Award he had always coveted, but it is and will remain one of the touchstones of a remarkable cinematic legacy.

Producer: Louis Malle
Director: Louis Malle
Screenplay: Louis Malle
Cinematography: Renato Berta
Film Editing: Emmanuelle Castro
Art Direction: Willy Holt
Music: Camille Saint-Saens
Cast: Gaspard Manesse (Julien Quentin), Raphael Fejto (Jean Bonnet), Francine Racette (Mme Quentin), Stanislas Carre de Malberg (Francois Quentin), Philippe Morier-Genoud (Pere Jean), Francois Berleand (Pere Michel).
C-105m. Letterboxed.

by Jay S. Steinberg
Au Revoir, Les Enfants

Au Revoir, Les Enfants

Drawn as it was from a boyhood incident in wartime France that would haunt him his entire life, it's not surprising that Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987) should be largely regarded as the most personal and resonant effort from director Louis Malle's distinguished body of work. Intelligently and believably played by its young amateur principals, the film offers a credible, unsentimental portrait of adolescent friendship, and a wrenching study of how the abstract horrors of the Nazi occupation became all too immediate for the director's surrogate/protagonist. Malle's narrative commences in January 1944, when 12-year old Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse) is being packed off from his Paris home to resume his studies at St. Croix, an exclusive Carmelite boarding school in the Ile de France. By and large, the privileged, intellectually precocious Julien maintains a contemptuous distance from the bulk of his classmates. It's not long into the semester, however, when the headmaster Pere Jean (Philippe Morier-Genoud) unexpectedly introduces three new boys to the school, including the contemplative Jean Bonnet (Raphael Fejto). While initially regarding the newcomer with hostility, Julien comes to recognize a kindred spirit in Jean's native intelligence and outsider posture. While events begin to forge a tentative bond between the boys, Julien remains piqued regarding Jean's vague and inconsistent accounts of his family life. His rummaging through Bonnet's belongings leads to the discovery that "Jean Bonnet" is in fact Jean Kippelstein, and that he and the other new inductees are refugee Jews whom Pere Jean has sought to covertly sequester from the Nazis. Although Jean is enraged when Julien confronts him with the truth, the incident is shortly forgotten, and the two go on with their lives. All changes for the worst when a vengeful expelled student (Francois Negret) goes to the Gestapo with his beliefs about Pere Jean's activities. When the SS bursts into the classroom, all it takes is a furtive glance from Julien to Jean to spur the soldiers into leading him away, and Julien can only watch with crushing regret as Pere Jean and those he sought to shield are lead off to their fates. In Philip French's definitive interview Malle on Malle, the director was candid about the lifelong impact of the factual circumstances that had inspired him. "For years I just didn't want to deal with it, but it had an enormous influence on the rest of my life...It's hard to explain, but it was such a shock that it took me several years to get over it, to try to understand it--and, of course, there was no way I could understand it. What happened was so appalling and so fundamentally opposed to all the values that we were being taught, that I concluded that there was something wrong with the world, and I started becoming very rebellious." As to the two young unknowns cast to shoulder his story, Malle told French, "I knew even before I started writing the screenplay that the film would succeed or fail on the casting... I hesitated for a while between [Manesse] and another boy, but there was something about Gaspard: he was like quicksilver, he was so alive, very sharp and insolent. Arrogant and shy at the same time. When we started reading with him I could see he was on pitch... The boys very quickly became so confident, they seem to master the technical difficulties of film acting so easily, that sometimes I had to be hard on them because it was almost too easy for them," the filmmaker stated. Au Revoir, Les Enfants met with almost universal praise upon its release, and Malle wholly anticipated that the wave of acclaim would culminate with its obtaining the 1987 Oscar® for Best Foreign Film, so much so that he was personally devastated when the prize was given instead to Babette's Feast (1987). The film may not have garnered Malle the Academy Award he had always coveted, but it is and will remain one of the touchstones of a remarkable cinematic legacy. Producer: Louis Malle Director: Louis Malle Screenplay: Louis Malle Cinematography: Renato Berta Film Editing: Emmanuelle Castro Art Direction: Willy Holt Music: Camille Saint-Saens Cast: Gaspard Manesse (Julien Quentin), Raphael Fejto (Jean Bonnet), Francine Racette (Mme Quentin), Stanislas Carre de Malberg (Francois Quentin), Philippe Morier-Genoud (Pere Jean), Francois Berleand (Pere Michel). C-105m. Letterboxed. by Jay S. Steinberg

Louis Malle's Au Revoir les enfants on DVD


In January of 1944, future film director Louis Malle's life as a young student at a Catholic boarding school was disrupted when the school's headmaster, Pere Jacques, was taken away by the Nazis for having harbored four Jewish boys whom he disguised as students. The school was shut down and the Jewish boys were sent to concentration camps. The incident haunted Malle all his life, until in 1987 he dramatized the events in Au Revoir Les Enfants. The film became one of the most acclaimed in his career, winning (among other honors) the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, seven Cesar Awards (including Best Film and Best Director), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Director. In addition, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. The Criterion Collection has now released Au Revoir Les Enfants on DVD in the United States for the first time.

Gaspard Manesse stars in Malle's fictionalized account as Julien Quentin, a young student attending school at the St. John of the Cross Carmelite Convent along with his older brother François (Stanislas Carre de Malberg). Returning for the start of a new semester in January 1944, Julien meets Jean Bonnet (Raphel Fejto), one of four new students. Intelligent and observant, Julien soon notices a number of odd details about Jean: he doesn't recite a prayer with the other boys during an air raid; he declines a piece of ham at dinner; he gives sketchy accounts of his background; when French collaborators visit looking for draft dodgers, the priests hide him; etc. Looking in one of Jean's books reveals his secret: he is really Jean Kippeinstein. The two boys gradually form a bond and Julien slowly awakens to the sense of danger that his new friend must live with every day. With the war all around them, will the walls of the convent be enough to keep Jean safe?

Due in large part to his experience working in documentaries, Malle preferred a realistic approach for the majority of his projects over the standard conventions of Hollywood-style films. This realistic technique is ideally suited to the true story of Au Revoir Les Enfants. There is no flamboyant camerawork or flashy cutting to call attention to the director; the emphasis is on the characters and the emotional truth of the scenes. There are no traditional, contrived movie suspense sequences, no bathetic sentimentality; tension and pathos are allowed to grow out of the events naturally. Contributing significantly to the sense of realism is Malle's gift for evoking specific social milieus. The world of the boarding school is expertly portrayed in all its detail: the daily routines, the classes and religious ceremonies, the social cliques among students, the activities of the staff, the hazing of new students, etc. We're immersed in the rhythms, the sights, the sounds, even the sense of geography (the layout of the school, the nearby village and woods) lived by the main characters, creating a vivid sense of reality that makes the power of the story feel immediate, even though the events are decades in the past.

Malle keeps the focus of the story on the main character, Julien Quentin. (Despite the autobiographical nature of the film, Malle insisted Julien was not modeled after himself.) It's the story both of a friendship, and of a gradual awakening to a sense-still limited by a child's perspective--of the larger world and the consequences of war. At the beginning of the film, Julien is shown to be bright, bookish and perceptive, but still fairly immature: he's overly attached to his mother, he wets his bed and he tells adults he wants to be a priest because he thinks that's what they want of him. When he first meets Jean he immediately sees that the new boy is a fellow reader. This should form a quick bond between them, but instead Julien sticks to the schoolyard code of hazing new students, telling Jean "Mess with me and you'll be sorry."

When Julien's perceptiveness and curiosity lead him to the truth about Jean, his reaction is mixed. He knows that the knowledge gives him some power over the boy, so in traditional schoolyard fashion he tells Jean that he knows his secret in a manner that sounds like a thinly-veiled threat. Julien's deeper reaction is to wonder why this secret should matter. He is aware of anti-Semitism: Joseph (François Negret), an older boy who works at the school and trades goods with the students, insults Julien by calling him "a real Jew," and the local public bathhouse has a sign prohibiting Jews. He asks his older brother what a Jew is and why people hate them, but gets an unsatisfactory answer: Jews are people who don't eat pork, and people hate them because "they're smarter than us" and "they killed Jesus." None of this makes sense to Julien, who protests that the Romans killed Jesus, and who certainly can't understand why not eating pork or being smart should be causes for bigotry. Jean strikes him as just another boy; there doesn't seem to be any good reason for hating him. After having been raised in a Catholic school with concise teachings on right and wrong, Julien is confronted with real-world adult "morality" that seems devoid of logic or reason. Malle thus avoids any clumsy speechifying about the evils of anti-Semitism: he simply presents it from the perspective of a sensitive and intelligent child and thereby exposes its utter irrationality.

Julien and Jean's friendship is finally cemented during a school treasure hunt, during which Julien is chased by aggressive older boys and ends up lost, alone and frightened in the woods. After discovering the treasure, he comes across a similarly fearful Jean, who also fled from the others. When they start walking back to the school, a car driven by German soldiers stops to pick them up, causing Jean to briefly panic and try to run. Although Julien has difficulty fully grasping Jean's perilous situation, the feelings of persecution (by the older boys), fear and isolation in an unfamiliar environment he experiences during the treasure hunt help him to empathize with the other boy. Another factor that helps them bond is that Julien also has a secret he does not want his classmates to discover: he wets his bed. The secret is not comparable to Jean's, but it helps give Julien a perspective on Jean's situation. (He's also grateful when Jean learns his secret but doesn't reveal it.) As soon as Julien is able to set aside the attitudes expected of him by his schoolmates (don't mix with the new kids) and society (don't mix with Jews), he can both empathizes with Jean and discover a natural friend with whom he can share his intellectual passions. Malle's sensitive depiction of how the relationship between Julian and Jean develops makes Au Revoir Les Enfants one of the best films about childhood friendship ever in addition to being a "coming of age" story and an excellent look at wartime France.

Malle is fortunate to have found two young leads able to handle the complex roles of Julien and Jean. Gaspard Manesse conveys Julien's many facets with skill and subtlety: his devotion to his mother, his stoic façade around some of the other students, his curiosity, his difficulty in understanding society's anti-Semitism and his compassion for and true friendship with Jean. Manesse captures the essence of a boy whose intellectual development is outpacing his emotional development, and who is making his first tentative explorations of the adult world. As Jean, Raphael Fejto quietly evokes a fatalistic sense of dread, the consequence of a boy being forced to live with fear for far too long. A standout among the supporting cast is François Negret as Joseph. Suffering from a lame leg, Joseph cannot serve in the army or the resistance, and is forced to support himself with menial work at the convent, supplemented by trading with students who also regard him as an outcast. Negret expertly communicates the boy's false bravado (he boasts of many sexual conquests) and the seething bitterness that lies just beneath the surface.

Criterion's disc of Au Revoir Les Enfants is another superb effort from the label. The 1.66:1, 16 x 9 enhanced transfer was supervised by cinematographer Renato Bera, and is an excellent representation of the film's crisp photography and subdued color palette of wintry tones-browns, tans, blues, blacks and whites. The French mono soundtrack is clear and free of noise or distortion. Extras are limited to two trailers and printed essays by Philip Kemp and Francis J. Murphy. The film is available by itself or as part of the box set 3 Films by Louis Malle, which also includes Le Souffle au Coeur, Lacombe Lucien and a disc of bonus materials. The bonus disc includes an interview with biographer Pierre Billard, who discusses (among other things) the true events that inspired Au Revoir Les Enfants, an insightful analysis of the character of Joseph by filmmaker Guy Magen, an interview with Malle's widow Candice Bergen, vintage audio and TV interviews with Malle, a Malle filmography and Charlie Chaplin's The Immigrant, which is featured in Au Revoir Les Enfants.

For more information about Au Revoir Les Enfants, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Au Revoir Les Enfants, go to TCM Shopping.

by Gary Teetzel

Louis Malle's Au Revoir les enfants on DVD

In January of 1944, future film director Louis Malle's life as a young student at a Catholic boarding school was disrupted when the school's headmaster, Pere Jacques, was taken away by the Nazis for having harbored four Jewish boys whom he disguised as students. The school was shut down and the Jewish boys were sent to concentration camps. The incident haunted Malle all his life, until in 1987 he dramatized the events in Au Revoir Les Enfants. The film became one of the most acclaimed in his career, winning (among other honors) the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, seven Cesar Awards (including Best Film and Best Director), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Director. In addition, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. The Criterion Collection has now released Au Revoir Les Enfants on DVD in the United States for the first time. Gaspard Manesse stars in Malle's fictionalized account as Julien Quentin, a young student attending school at the St. John of the Cross Carmelite Convent along with his older brother François (Stanislas Carre de Malberg). Returning for the start of a new semester in January 1944, Julien meets Jean Bonnet (Raphel Fejto), one of four new students. Intelligent and observant, Julien soon notices a number of odd details about Jean: he doesn't recite a prayer with the other boys during an air raid; he declines a piece of ham at dinner; he gives sketchy accounts of his background; when French collaborators visit looking for draft dodgers, the priests hide him; etc. Looking in one of Jean's books reveals his secret: he is really Jean Kippeinstein. The two boys gradually form a bond and Julien slowly awakens to the sense of danger that his new friend must live with every day. With the war all around them, will the walls of the convent be enough to keep Jean safe? Due in large part to his experience working in documentaries, Malle preferred a realistic approach for the majority of his projects over the standard conventions of Hollywood-style films. This realistic technique is ideally suited to the true story of Au Revoir Les Enfants. There is no flamboyant camerawork or flashy cutting to call attention to the director; the emphasis is on the characters and the emotional truth of the scenes. There are no traditional, contrived movie suspense sequences, no bathetic sentimentality; tension and pathos are allowed to grow out of the events naturally. Contributing significantly to the sense of realism is Malle's gift for evoking specific social milieus. The world of the boarding school is expertly portrayed in all its detail: the daily routines, the classes and religious ceremonies, the social cliques among students, the activities of the staff, the hazing of new students, etc. We're immersed in the rhythms, the sights, the sounds, even the sense of geography (the layout of the school, the nearby village and woods) lived by the main characters, creating a vivid sense of reality that makes the power of the story feel immediate, even though the events are decades in the past. Malle keeps the focus of the story on the main character, Julien Quentin. (Despite the autobiographical nature of the film, Malle insisted Julien was not modeled after himself.) It's the story both of a friendship, and of a gradual awakening to a sense-still limited by a child's perspective--of the larger world and the consequences of war. At the beginning of the film, Julien is shown to be bright, bookish and perceptive, but still fairly immature: he's overly attached to his mother, he wets his bed and he tells adults he wants to be a priest because he thinks that's what they want of him. When he first meets Jean he immediately sees that the new boy is a fellow reader. This should form a quick bond between them, but instead Julien sticks to the schoolyard code of hazing new students, telling Jean "Mess with me and you'll be sorry." When Julien's perceptiveness and curiosity lead him to the truth about Jean, his reaction is mixed. He knows that the knowledge gives him some power over the boy, so in traditional schoolyard fashion he tells Jean that he knows his secret in a manner that sounds like a thinly-veiled threat. Julien's deeper reaction is to wonder why this secret should matter. He is aware of anti-Semitism: Joseph (François Negret), an older boy who works at the school and trades goods with the students, insults Julien by calling him "a real Jew," and the local public bathhouse has a sign prohibiting Jews. He asks his older brother what a Jew is and why people hate them, but gets an unsatisfactory answer: Jews are people who don't eat pork, and people hate them because "they're smarter than us" and "they killed Jesus." None of this makes sense to Julien, who protests that the Romans killed Jesus, and who certainly can't understand why not eating pork or being smart should be causes for bigotry. Jean strikes him as just another boy; there doesn't seem to be any good reason for hating him. After having been raised in a Catholic school with concise teachings on right and wrong, Julien is confronted with real-world adult "morality" that seems devoid of logic or reason. Malle thus avoids any clumsy speechifying about the evils of anti-Semitism: he simply presents it from the perspective of a sensitive and intelligent child and thereby exposes its utter irrationality. Julien and Jean's friendship is finally cemented during a school treasure hunt, during which Julien is chased by aggressive older boys and ends up lost, alone and frightened in the woods. After discovering the treasure, he comes across a similarly fearful Jean, who also fled from the others. When they start walking back to the school, a car driven by German soldiers stops to pick them up, causing Jean to briefly panic and try to run. Although Julien has difficulty fully grasping Jean's perilous situation, the feelings of persecution (by the older boys), fear and isolation in an unfamiliar environment he experiences during the treasure hunt help him to empathize with the other boy. Another factor that helps them bond is that Julien also has a secret he does not want his classmates to discover: he wets his bed. The secret is not comparable to Jean's, but it helps give Julien a perspective on Jean's situation. (He's also grateful when Jean learns his secret but doesn't reveal it.) As soon as Julien is able to set aside the attitudes expected of him by his schoolmates (don't mix with the new kids) and society (don't mix with Jews), he can both empathizes with Jean and discover a natural friend with whom he can share his intellectual passions. Malle's sensitive depiction of how the relationship between Julian and Jean develops makes Au Revoir Les Enfants one of the best films about childhood friendship ever in addition to being a "coming of age" story and an excellent look at wartime France. Malle is fortunate to have found two young leads able to handle the complex roles of Julien and Jean. Gaspard Manesse conveys Julien's many facets with skill and subtlety: his devotion to his mother, his stoic façade around some of the other students, his curiosity, his difficulty in understanding society's anti-Semitism and his compassion for and true friendship with Jean. Manesse captures the essence of a boy whose intellectual development is outpacing his emotional development, and who is making his first tentative explorations of the adult world. As Jean, Raphael Fejto quietly evokes a fatalistic sense of dread, the consequence of a boy being forced to live with fear for far too long. A standout among the supporting cast is François Negret as Joseph. Suffering from a lame leg, Joseph cannot serve in the army or the resistance, and is forced to support himself with menial work at the convent, supplemented by trading with students who also regard him as an outcast. Negret expertly communicates the boy's false bravado (he boasts of many sexual conquests) and the seething bitterness that lies just beneath the surface. Criterion's disc of Au Revoir Les Enfants is another superb effort from the label. The 1.66:1, 16 x 9 enhanced transfer was supervised by cinematographer Renato Bera, and is an excellent representation of the film's crisp photography and subdued color palette of wintry tones-browns, tans, blues, blacks and whites. The French mono soundtrack is clear and free of noise or distortion. Extras are limited to two trailers and printed essays by Philip Kemp and Francis J. Murphy. The film is available by itself or as part of the box set 3 Films by Louis Malle, which also includes Le Souffle au Coeur, Lacombe Lucien and a disc of bonus materials. The bonus disc includes an interview with biographer Pierre Billard, who discusses (among other things) the true events that inspired Au Revoir Les Enfants, an insightful analysis of the character of Joseph by filmmaker Guy Magen, an interview with Malle's widow Candice Bergen, vintage audio and TV interviews with Malle, a Malle filmography and Charlie Chaplin's The Immigrant, which is featured in Au Revoir Les Enfants. For more information about Au Revoir Les Enfants, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Au Revoir Les Enfants, go to TCM Shopping. by Gary Teetzel

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter February 12, 1988

Released in United States February 19, 1988

Released in United States on Video March 30, 1989

Released in United States 1974

Released in United States September 1987

Released in United States April 1988

Shown at Venice Film Festival September 1987.

Shown at Reykjavik's Alliance Francaise April 1988. (Not part of the festival.)

Began shooting February 2, 1987.

Released in United States Winter February 12, 1988

Released in United States February 19, 1988 (Los Angeles)

Released in United States on Video March 30, 1989

Released in United States 1974 (Louis Malle's first French-language film since "Lacombe Lucien" (1974). One of six French films chosen to be shown in East Berlin. The first time in 10 years that French films were shown to East Germans.)

Released in United States September 1987 (Shown at Venice Film Festival September 1987.)

Released in United States April 1988 (Shown at Reykjavik's Alliance Francaise April 1988. (Not part of the festival.))

The Country of France