Just fifteen minutes into the film and it started giving me emotional goose bumps. Rene Clement’s this simple yet heart stirring humanitarian document set in time of Second World War is one of the most sublime antiwar films I have ever seen. A number of films being made depicting the absurdities of war from eyes of innocent kids but a few of them captured it as effectively and as naturally as this film. Clement got something so breathing natural in terms of acting and expressions and point of views from both the kids especially that five years old little girl Briggitte Fossey in her debut role of Paulette makes it a paragon case study to use child actors in cinema.
The impact of great film lies in its indelible images that you carry once you finish the film and that stays in your mind for long. The film has many of them- i.e- the kids secretly digging graves for dead animals, at the funeral around the church the kids noticing different sizes of cross and naming it for different animals, the slow panning shot of secret animal cemetery made by kids at the mill with stolen crosses and tags for animals, the captured emotional expressions of girl especially when the boy gets caught and beaten up by his father followed by frustrations of disillusioned Michel noticed by an owl. And above all that heartbreaking final frames where the girl moving to orphanage at railway station hears somebody uttering Michel and we see those cute yearning eyes and facial expressions searching him around that can break any strong heart. How can I resist tears in my eyes! What an effective and soul stirring cinema!
Cinema beyond ratings.