[Film Review] Forbidden Games (1952)

Forbidden Games poster

English Title: Forbidden Games
Original Title: Jeux interdits
Year: 1952
Country: France
Language: French
Genre: Drama, War
Director: René Clément
Jean Aurenche
Pierre Bost
François Boyer
René Clément
based on the titular novel of François Boyer
Music: Narciso Yepes
Cinematography: Robert Juillard
Georges Poujouly
Brigitte Fossey
Lucien Hubert
Suzanne Courtal
Laurence Badie
Jacques Marin
Marcel Mérovée
André Wasley
Louis Saintève
Madeleine Barbulée
Rating: 8.7/10

June 1950, the parents of a five-year-old girl Paulette (Fossey) are killed in a sudden strafe as they are fleeing from Paris during the Fall of France, death befalls her so wantonly, even her puppy cannot survive it. Then Paulette runs into Michel Dollé (Poujouly), a boy slightly older than her, who brings her to their rural home, a household of eight, the Dollé family takes her in, despite of the wartime difficulties.

Paulette has a new home, but she is shell-shocked, what the hell can a little girl do to process the after-effects of death at such an innocent age? Director René Clément’s Golden Lion champion pluckily grapples with this delicate matter in question postulated by François Boyer’s source novel, it is more complex than a deviant orbit caused by children’s innocence loss or juvenile blind faith (the latter would get a nice exploration in Bryan Forbes’ WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND 1961). Paulette becomes fixated on the ritual after death ever since she tries digging a hole to bury her dead puppy and proffering something more orthodox to ensure a solemn promise of rest-in-peace, one thing after another, she needs other dead animals to be interred nearby for company, with Michel gladly offering his helping hand, their “pet cemetery” project goes rather smoothly, the last thing they need is crosses, and there is only one place can meet their requirement – the church cemetery.

Does it sound morbid? On paper, yes, the psychological transference of a child’s unhealthy obsession, which trespasses innocence and is fomented by the underdeveloped intelligence, can be reckoned as a fervent anti-war manifesto, children should never be afflicted with the cruelty of war, at any rate, that lies the meat of the film’s enduring value and universal cachet. A sharp reference can be traced from the depiction of the feud between the Dollés and their neighbor, the Gouards, men are innately belligerent, and the film also shows that how shockingly easy to catalyze hostility into action even by blatant lies.

Clément’s spanking execution guilefully hedges around most of the animal cruelty – save the unfortunate fate of Paulette’s fox terrier, and the film itself is an absolute marvel, organically endearing and enormously poignant, Fossey and Poujouly are plumb wunderkinds in front of camera, both in their first screen roles, completely tug at audience’s heartstrings, in particular, their respective final scenes. It is a boy’s rite-of-passage to face the vagaries of the adult world versus a girl’s new chapter with her abruptly orphaned identity which chanciness beckons. But on a brighter side, love is cherished and celebrated in its purest form. Narciso Yepes’ pellucid score turns mellow and romantic whenever the two kids are in the same frame, including the ear-worm takeaway, the guitar piece ROMANCE.

Clément also garnishes the two leads with a rosary of subplots about the adults, each member of the Dollés is allotted with economic but well-crafted quota to reveal an authentic immediacy of life under that particular cloud, anxiety, dissatisfaction, sexual awakening and increasingly religiously dependent. To put it in a simple sentence, FORBIDDEN GAMES is a chef-d’oeuvre and one of the most important movies every human being on earth needs to watch and then to be affected, stunned and amazed!

Forbidden Games 1952


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