A chronicle of a French city under the occupation. Director Marcel Ophuls combined interviews and archival film footage to explore the reality of the French occupation in one small industrial city, Clermont-Ferrand. He spo... more »ke with resistance fighters, collaborators, spies, farmers, government officials, writers, artists and veterans. The result is a shattering portrait of how ordinary people actually conducted themselves under extraordinary circumstances. By turns gripping, horrifying, and inspiring, Academy Award nominee "The Sorrow and the Pity" is a triumph of humanist filmmaking and a testament to the power of cinema. Before "Shoah," "Schindler's List," "The Long Way Home" and "The Last Days," there was "The Sorrow and the Pity."« less
"This is the most moving documentary I have seen. It transports the viewer back to World War II France and conveys the courage, cowardice and hatred arrising from events most of us will thankfully never have to live through. This film helps the viewer understand (or gain an insight)into life in occupied France.
I was born in 1968 - well after the end of WWII. Like most English people I hold the view that we either kicked French ass, or saved their skin depending on the particular conflict (we'll forget about the Norman invasion and Joan of Arc). However, given total collapse, would the UK or US be any different? Some people would collaborate (for ideological or financial reasons, perhaps for survival or out of ignorance), the majority would do nothing and the minority would resist. Would it be so different for any other country? One area the film touches on is the French treatment of Jews - it would appear the French were just as inhernly anti-semitic as the Germans. Anti semitism in france appears to be systemic (e.g. WWI ?Dreyfus affair).
One disturbing aspect of the film was the punishment of young women who slept with the Germans. The most minor acts of collaboration were treated the most harshly. The war in france during the occupation bordered on cival war between factions of the resistance (FFI, Gaulist) and Nazi groups (Millice). A situation amounting to anarchy existed for a short period after the liberation.
Sorrow and pity sum up what I felt for many of the individuals concerned. It presents a dilema I hope I am never faced with - we don't know how we would react both as nations or individuals unless placed in those circumstances. Probaly the closest the UK came was the Channel Islands, occupied from 40-45. The only part of the US that has lived under military occupation, since the revolution, is the South after the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865 - neither example is comprable to the total defeat of France in WWII. The doucmentary brings home the shades of grey in war. No conflict is balck or white, however much we wish it were. Otherwise 'normal' people do bad things - this film illustrates the moral ambiguity war imposes.
Easy to understand why France wants to forget this period."
60 Years Ago
Christopher B. Valenti | Richmond, VA United States | 08/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"60 years ago France negotiated a peace with Hitler and the country was split: Germany occupied the north while Petain's collaborationist; puppet government installed itself in the South. France was the only conquered country in WWII to have established a collaborationist government. To further disgrace herself in defeat, she was proactive in Hitler's Final Solution by instituting the same anti-Semitic policies as had been enacted elsewhere in Hitler's Europe and in sending thousands of French citizens to death camps. How could this have been possible? Is one man to blame? Hitler? Petain? Or is an entire nation guilty? While most of France sat idly by, small groups of patriots-risking death, torture, and deportation--formed resistance factions within France to combat the Nazi propaganda and even undermine German military strength with sabotage and assassinations. These "terrorists" as the German's called them, sacrificed everything for their ideals. While the experience of World War II and the evils of Hitler have been recorded in countless mediums,The Sorrow and The Pity is one of the most important if for no other reason than because there is a sense in our (American) society that war is fiction. It is almost absurd to think of one's homeland being invaded--even occupied--by another country. Surely, our civilization has moved beyond the barbarism of those days! Watch this documentary and try to understand, because these events are not fiction. They really happened. It was only 60 years ago."
Courageous, controversial and truthful
Toshifumi Fujiwara | Tokyo, Japan | 04/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To most film viewers, this masterpiece of Marcel Ophuls is known by being continuously mentioned by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall". Yes, it is the long documentary film about the holocaust that they talk about.Marcel Ophuls, son of Max Ophuls has created a poignant potrait of french society under the Nazis occupation, and their relation to the most horible crime in human history -- he indeed is not afraid to tell the truth; that holocaust took place in France because the French citizen allowed it to happen to the least to say, and even have colaborated to it. However, this film is not a simple minded accusation, but a thoughtful study about a society under pressure, and its strugle for survival.It certainly is a deppressing film; the viewers are constantl reminded to what they would have done if they were --we were-- living under such sircumstances. It is truthful to that extreme extent. It's an amazing film; thoughtful, inteligent, emotional.The opening of this film steered quite a controversy in Frannce, but neverthless had led the way to fictional films about the Holocaust and the ocupation that are more mature and adult, not afraid to portray the truth; Jean-Pierre Melville's THE ARMY OF SHADOW, Francois Truffaut's THE LAST METRO, among others."
S. Lacoste | Metro Washington DC United States | 02/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Thank goodness this is now available to US and Canadian viewers. Ophuls did a masterful job of interviewing members of the French Resistance and other participants in World War II. One can learn so much about this war from many interesting points of view not usually in our history books. Many of the people featured in this documentary are sadly long gone but their dedication and devotion to their cause is inspirational as well as informative."
Watch, Listen, Learn, and Think
Kurt Harding | Boerne TX | 03/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like many other Americans, I had a skewed view of French participation in WWII. I mean, the prevailing wisdom is that they fought (badly) a short time, surrendered ignominiously, and then wanted a huge chunk of the glory and German territory to occupy after the English and the Americans saved them from the Nazis. But after watching The Sorrow and The Pity, I came away with a different view. On the eve of WWII, France was a country beset by weak political leadership and growing tensions between left and right. The Socialist government of Leon Blum was widely reviled and after its collapse the country drifted from one domestic crisis to another as war clouds gathered ominously to the east. On paper, France was well-prepared for war with the numerically fewer and militarily less advanced German army. The German high command did not think the war would be easy and many doubted that France could be beaten. But it was. As it turned out, German ideology, discipline, and training trumped French overconfidence and disunity. The Sorrow and the Pity shows the tragedy of defeat and the disarray into which France fell in its aftermath. WWI hero Petain took command in the part of France the Germans did not occupy and made Vichy its capital. He made many errors, but in retrospect you have to say he tried to keep the Germans at bay as much as possible. Think how the war may have turned out had the Germans occupied the country entirely! In a series of interviews interspersed with period film footage we see the occupation through the eyes of both the occupier and the occupied. We hear stories of bravery and cowardice, tragedy and triumph, loyalty and treachery. Deep thinkers might be left musing about what might have happened in their own countries under similar circumstances. Importantly, we get two views of Laval and Petain instead of just the usual dismissal of them both as traitors. The Sorrow and the Pity should give all of us pause. Watch, listen, learn and think about what your own reactions might be if your country were occupied. Would you use occupation as a cover to settle personal vendettas? Would you keep your head down and try to go about your business unobtrusively? Would you passively resist? Or would you actively work for liberation? We all might imagine ourselves as doing the most heroic thing, but what would we really do? And would you rationalize whatever it was you ended up doing after it was all over? Millions of Germans and Frenchmen did! I really recommend that anyone interested in obtaining a well-rounded view of WWII and the French role in it take the 4 hours+ and see The Sorrow and the Pity. Not only does the viewer learn a lot about that aspect of the war, but also about human nature. This is truly a gripping story from start to finish."