There have been many films that have brutally depicted the horrors of war, but the ripples during this time of conflict were felt far beyond the battleground. Released on DVD and Blu Ray for the first time this week is Rene Clement’s classic Forbidden Games.
This project started life as part of a trilogy of short films, due to the productions financial problems and how well received the footage was, pioneering director Rene Clement decided to expand the story and turn his short into a full length feature film.
5-year-old Parisian girl Paulette (Brigitte Fossey) barely survived the sudden air attack that claimed the lives of her parents and her beloved pet dog Jock. A group of fleeing villagers offer Paulette a ride and quickly cast aside her deceased dog, not wanting to leave him behind she abandons the relative safety of the wagon and goes to retrieve Jock from the river. After the haunting realisation that she is now alone in the world, Paulette finds her way to rural village and is taken in by a peasant family at a local farm.
Clement’ movie shows the effect of war on the innocent through the eyes of two young children. Although they might come from different walks of life, the immediate bond between Paulette and Michel (Georges Poujouly) is universally heart warming, finding something that is both morbid and yet life affirming, the pair embark on building their own small cemetery where they bury dead animals they find.
Adopting his famed naturalistic approach Clement was a master at getting raw and realistic performances from his young cast, the opening sequence showing the demise of Paulette’s parents features Brigitte’s real life parents to add a heightened sense of emotion to her performance.
The plot serves as almost a counterpoint to the war itself. The innocence behind the actions of the two children as they attempt to deal with what feels like the end of the world, normalises the chaos that surrounds them both.
As Michel becomes intensely protective of Paulette it becomes painfully clear how much he cares for her. His willingness to help her out of the depths of tragedy and take responsibility for her personifies the triumph of the human spirit through times of great need, this shines through in his performance. There might be a lack of sentimentality but this only makes the ending all the more heartbreaking, in lesser hands a cop-out happy ending would have been tacked on but that would have undermined the film. As it stands the ending is one of the most profoundly devastating moments in cinematic history.
Unsurprisingly this won the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1952, it went on to claim an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film as well. What is surprising is the absence of this movie on many best war movies of all time lists, at 61 years old the film is just as moving and inspiring as ever and in my opinion it’s also Clement’ true masterpiece.
The DVD is home to an insightful 30 minute documentary that features the now grown up Brigitte Fossey and an alternative version of the ending.