Today I watched Forbidden Games, directed by Rene Clement in 1952. It's pretty short, and I guess had a lot of difficulties in the production, so it's not the most perfect looking film. It's a great film, though. It really uses a unique perspective to tell a very interesting story. It's sort of disturbing, but mostly just amazing. I didn't think I would really like the film, and I was worried it would be horribly depressing, but it was great.
The film is about two children during World War II. Paulette's parents and dog are killed during an air attack. She gets picked up by some strangers, but they throw the body of her puppy into the river, and she escapes to go get him. She is discovered by Michel, a young boy who takes her back to his family where they take her in. They become really close, and create their own way of dealing with the tragedy around them. One day Michel discovers that Paulette is trying to bury her dog, and he helps her. So it's not alone, they start to bury all sorts of dead things that they find. Michel is religious, and he teaches Paulette how to pray and make the sign of the cross. He also starts to make and then steal crucifixes for the animal graves.
It sounds extremely morbid and weird, doesn't it? I was really upset by the scene of the puppy dying in the beginning of the movie. It was really realistic, and I honestly still keep thinking it was a real dead dog. It just bothered me so much, having a dog and having experienced losing a pet in a traumatic way. Ebert claims the movie isn't a tear-jerker, and it's really not, but oh man, that scene really upset me. So just a warning, I guess. But back to my point, the movie really is not as morbid as it sounds. It's full of death, but it's also a war movie (so death comes with the territory). Like Grave of the Fireflies, it's unique because it's told through the eyes of children, who, as Ebert beautifully says, are able to find happiness in places where adults think there should be none.
The cemetary that they make could have been extremely creepy, but I found it really touching. It was realistic, somehow, and I believed that it was a way for the children to deal with the grief that they didn't understand how to express. I don't know if this is true for all kids, but I had a lot of trouble dealing with my emotions when I was little. I would feel overwhelmed by them, or pick up on how I thought I was supposed to feel from watching adults. Adults know how to deal with issues like death and war, because they often can deal with them in little digestible pieces.Maybe they have more distractions, or a support network, or they just know what sort of things can help them process their feelings (be it writing or exercising or everything in between). Kids don't have these techniques, and it seemed really realistic that these two children found their own way to try to give voice to what they were feeling.
I don't know, this was just a really great, simple movie. It was fantastic at just telling a small personal story, somehow explaining something huge about war and the effect it has on people without ever becoming heavy-handed or obvious. It might seem strange or gross, the way the children coped with their emotions, but it made so much sense. I don't really know much about kids, but I do know that sometimes they aren't so squeamish about dead things, and so their want to bring all the forgotten dead animals together so they wouldn't be alone....it made so much sense. It was plausible. It's a really beautiful little movie, and it's worth checking out if you ever have about an hour and a half and want to watch something different. Just as a random side note - isn't it interesting how this is yet another brilliant French movie about children? I feel like I've seen some of the most moving films with children as the main characters from French filmmakers. I wonder why. Feel free to chime in on that random train of thought. :)
Have any thoughts about Forbidden Games? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Forbidden Games
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