Au revoir les enfants

Au revoir les enfants was Malle's attempt to give life and vision to a haunting memory from his wartime childhood. The film follows the growing friendship of two boys in a Catholic school-one, a Malle stand-in (mother fixation and all) named Julien, the other the mysterious Bonnet, a Jewish boy hiding under a false identity. Bonnet's gawky shyness and odd habits continually set him apart (and set him up); Julien, attracted to his lonely intelligence, makes it his business to find out why. Not since Joseph Losey's Mr. Klein has a film so perfectly conveyed the degree to which, in France, whether one was sympathetic or not, the Jew was the “other.” With paranoia on one side, curiosity on the other, the constant threat is that Julien, if only out of childhood's jerky impulses, might betray Bonnet. Like Lacombe, Lucien, here is a painful exploration of individual responsibility; it tells of a lifelong anxiety of powerlessness.

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