After her parents are massacred in front of her eyes during a German air strike, five-year-old Paulette (Brigitte Fossey) seeks shelter with a peasant farm family and develops a close connection with the son, Michel (Georg... more »es Poujouly). The two become deeply affected by the death surrounding them and retreat into a grave world of lost innocence. Sensitively directed by René Clément, this Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film remains an unforgettable treasure of fifties French cinema.« less
"In French the title of this movie is perhaps appropriate, but in English it is misleading. What is "forbidden" about the games that the children play has nothing to do with sex (the usual designation of "forbidden" in English). Instead what 11-year-old Michel Dolle (Georges Poujouly) and 5-year-old Paulette (Brigitte Fossey) do that is forbidden is they steal crosses, from the cemetery, from the top of a horse-drawn hearse--Michel even attempts to steal the rector's crucifix. They do this as a way of coping with death. The crosses are for dead animals, her dog, some chicks, a worm, etc. that they have buried in a little plot under the mill near a stream.But this is not a horror show or anything like it. Instead, René Clément's celebrated tale of childhood love is actually a strongly religious anti-war movie of incredible delicacy, laced with humor and poignancy.It begins with an air attack on a stream of people (presumably Parisians running from Paris) along a country road trying to escape the encroachment of the Nazi army. Little Paulette is in a car with her parents and her little dog, Jock. They are gunned down by a German fighter plane. Paulette's parents and the dog are killed. Paulette is left alone carrying the dead dog in her arms. Eventually she wanders onto a farm where she is met by Michel who takes an instant liking to her and becomes her protector and her friend. His is a peasant family of farmers who really don't need another mouth to feed, but they take her in. She is so clean, they exclaim and she smells so good. She is from Paris. She has just undergone the most horrible terror, the death of her parents and her dog, and now she must somehow come to grips with that loss. What transpires is a child's interpretation of the healing power of religious ritual and symbol. Clément uses the world of the children as a counterpoint to the war in the background and as a gentle satire on the church. The children make a game of religion and in doing so demonstrate the healing power of ritual and sacrament.What makes this totally original and deeply symbolic film work is the uncluttered and naturalistic vision of Clément and his wonderful direction of his two little stars. Fossey in particular is amazing. She is completely unaffected and natural, an adorable little girl suddenly alone in the world who must make a new world for herself against great odds. Her sense of personal integrity and her strong will makes us believe that somehow she will succeed. Incidentally, Fossey's performance here in conveying the creative world of the child should be compared with 4-year-old Victoire Thivisol's performance in Jacques Doillon's Ponette (1996), as should the skill and vision of the directors. Both are deeply religious films that rely on the pre-socialized world of the child to show us our own spirituality.Also very good is Poujouly as the farm boy who loves little Paulette and shows that love by assuming the psychological and spiritual responsibility for helping her to overcome the tragedy of being so brutally orphaned. He is himself experiencing a pre-adolescent coming of age, a transition exemplified by rebellion and a growing independence of mind and spirit. Poujouly is intense and fully engaged, so much so that in one scene we can see him mouth in unison Paulette's lines in preparation for his time to speak. Clément left this in perhaps because he knew it would further characterize Michel's intensity.This film won the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1952 and an Academy Award the same year as best foreign film. It is one of the wonders of the French cinema, a masterpiece of the human spirit not to be missed. See it for the children, whose strength of character can inspire us all."
Heartbreaking, shattering anti-war film from a child's view
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 12/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My mom once told me about a film she watched as a child where she said she cried and cried and had to be led out of the movie theater. Years later, we watched Rene Clement's "Forbidden Games" on tv and she turned to me and said, "Omigod, that's the film." The film has perhaps one of the most shattering endings ever filmed. But the whole entire film is infused with unbearable sadness: what happens to children who are heartbroken? Paulette (Brigitte Fossey, in an almost disturbingly realistic performance) is orphaned during a Nazi war raid. She clutches onto her dead puppy. Paulette ends up stumbling upon a rather provincial family living on a farm, and quickly forms a tight bond with a slightly older boy named Michel (Georges Poujoly). The two youngsters soon develop a morbid ritual of building a pet cemetary. They steal crosses from the local cemetary for this ritual. The symbolism is clear -- Paulette, who has lost everything, becomes obsessed with death, because death is all she understands. The bond between Michel and Paulette is touching and painful at the same time -- the younger Paulette clings to Michel because she has nothing left. Forbidden Games is one of the most powerful anti-war films ever made. By focusing on children, Clement emphasizes the horrible toll war makes on the innocents -- families, children, even beloved pets. Brigitte Fossey as I mentioned earlier is simply astounding as Paulette. Round-face and blond, she is no less cute than Shirley Temple, but her face expresses more fear and heartbreak than 99% of adult actors. And the ending ... well, if you're not moved, than get rid of that stone and go shop for a heart. The dvd has an alternate beginning and ending, which wisely was dropped. If you see the film, you'll know what I mean."
Criterion Collection DVD...at last.
Cesar | San José, Costa Rica | 12/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Forbidden Games deals with the reaction of a couple of children -Paullette, who losses both her parents as the consequence of an air attack, and Michel, the youngest of a peasant family in which Paullete finds refuge- in the context of the horrors of war, in this case, the second world war, in 1940.
The movie (unlike others dealing with children and war, like "Germany, Year Zero") does not portray a miserable and deadly environment. Certainly, war is sensed all the time, and the danger of falling bombs is ever present. However, the movie is set in the seemingly peaceful countryside, not among ruins and combats. That doesn't diminish the tragic context of the movie at all. Because we have witnessed what Paullette has gone through. And although Michel doesn't seem to have had any kind of traumatic loss, he's old enough to know what's going on, and what Paullette is suffering. Maybe, this explains the way Michel wants to please Paullette, in her way to direct her pain. Their game of stealing crosses to complete a "big" animal cemetery could be seen as a morbid and macabre play by chlidren spoiled by the war, transformed into monsters. However, we never question the innocence that remains in the main characters as children that they are: what's macabre is not what they do, it's the war that they are witnessing. They just channel the influence of war and its implicit dead without malice.
Whether this topic is analized as the simplicity of an ill influenced child's play, or through any psychological or mental connotations or meanings that could be applied, Forbidden Games is still, even today, a very original piece of cinema, that would hardly reach the same meaning if it's filmed today, without the context and recent history that influenced it back in 1952. Anyway, nowadays, any director that would try to make a movie like this would find himself being very cautious, and I think he would end up doing something too tragic or too simplistic. René Clement did the right thing with the material that was handed to him, and the story and its meaning is so powerful and well executed that can still be enjoyed today. And what seems to be an open ending, is useful to reminds us that in war, for children there are no happy ending stories.
Unlike what one might think about a movie made in 1952 and with children as the lead actors, acting is flawless. I said that we never question the innocence of the children, and that is due in great part to the looks and great work of Briggitte Fossey and Georges Poujoly, whom give great credibility to that premise.
Criterion Collection has made available this magnificent movie on DVD for the first time. As usual, it's a commendable work of restoration in many senses: in the sense of allowing more people -like me- to get to know this movie, and in the sense of giving it the best quality that the latest techniques allow.
The original French soundtrack is included, along with the english dubbed, both of them monophonic. Of course, english subtitles are included.
As Bonus materials we have alternate opening and ending, that would have given the movie a different context, less realistic, if you will. But I cannot help but think that they also could have given the story some more contrasting connotations. Also, there are interviews with the director alone and him with Briggitte Fossey (both from the 60's) and an interview with the actress in 2.001.
Unlike some other Criterion releases, there is no additional track with an expert shedding some light on aspects that might be of interest, but a little printed essay is included in a booklet. "
Haunting French post-war film by Rene Clement
Cesar | 12/03/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Evocative b/w 1954 anti-war film by the French film master Rene Clement. The child actors in the film bring the horrors of war to us in a way that few blood and gore battlefied anti-war movies of today ever could possibly hope to convey. And the film contains a powerfully emotional ending that will be indelibly imprinted into your conscience forever."
The one ive been waiting for
dubub | usa | 10/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this by accident, as one often does, late one night on telivision( yes..proof that something worthwhile has been shown on tv) and it really blew us away..a Beautiful little film about a little girl orphaned by the war and adopted by a farming family.She delelopes a very close frienship with the young boy of this family...and..well lets not spoil the rest...it is a really profound and moving film that has stayed with me ever since i saw it..yes, we loved and have been dying to see it ever since..iam so glad criterion are doing it..suber"