This richly detailed, immaculately acted film traces the friendship between two 12-year-olds, one from a wealthy Catholic family through whose eyes the events are seen, the other a Jewish boy hidden by the priests, his identity concealed. The crowded dorms and freezing classrooms suggest Dickens, the central relationship hints at Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, occasional bizarre moments echo Vigo’s Zéro de conduite. It’s a movie about childhood, friendship, betrayal, and how to understand a confused world. The priests are neither mocked nor turned into plaster saints; Nazism and anti-Semitism are seen as evil, but the German occupiers are not demonised. The infinitely moving final words are spoken on the soundtrack by Malle himself looking back over the years to a moment he will never forget.
Certificate: 12A Biography | Drama | War
Dir. Louis Malle, France, West Germany, Italy, 1987, 109 mins, Subtitles
Cast: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Francine Racette