209 of 210 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2005
A film that inspired so many other directors and often referred to as one of the great films of all time, Le chagrin et la pitié, to use the film's French title, was made for French television in 1968 by Marcel Ophüls but the broadcasters refused to show it, so disturbing were the contents thought to be. Ultimately it received a limited release, mainly being shown in "art house" cinemas where it's reputation spread. The film was eventually broadcast on French television in 1981.
This masterpiece, running at over 4 hours and divided into two parts dealing with the occupation of France and the choices made by the French people during the occupation, is a time capsule. Consisting mainly of interviews, interspersed with archive footage, the film was made when the participants - French, German and British - were still alive and the memory of the events still fresh in their minds. Their stories - the collaboration and the resistance, the attitudes and perspectives of real people - render this period of French history together into a profound and thought provoking film that will give all who see it pause for thought. Historical amnesia benefits no one.
The subtitled film is divided into two clear halves conveniently split over 2 DVDs. This edition includes an interview conducted in 2004 with the director.
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2010
Stunning, illuminating and completely compelling documentary of WW2 France. Repeated viewings do not detract from the impact made by the retrospective accounts gleaned from often very ordinary people who found themselves in totally extraordinary situations. From the modest, matter of fact but 'hard as nails' farm labourers who fought with the Resistance to the landed gentry and castle owner who elected to serve not with the Resistance but astonishingly as a founder member of the SS French Division. This seminal film brilliantly captures a polarised French society in the late 1960's struggling to come to terms with it's recent history, its courage and strengths but also with the deceipts, acquiescence, and frailties of many of its citizens. I do not find that the subtitles detract from this moving experience. Simply, my favourite film of all time and I will continue to watch it again and again.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2010
Ophuls examination of the fall of France in 1940 and life under the Nazis for the next five years will leave a lasting impression on your mind 'He marries archive film with later interviews over the whole range of participants from collaborators to resistance fighters. This marrying together of archive and interview is brilliantly done and far superior to the ghastly historical reconstructions that TV often goes in for. Although the film deals with France its impact is universal in that it shows the height and depths to which mankind can reach.At the same time it is always entertaining, its emotional impact is greater than most dramas.Not to be missed it truly is one of the all time documentary greats
73 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2008
If you are a native English speaker with only a rudimentary knowledge of French as I have, you will struggle with this film. This version was made for English speakers as the subtitles are only when the French or Germans are speaking. But, for some reason, the subtitles drop off or malfunction about 25% of the time. This leaves a very frustrated viewer as entire subjects can be left hanging.
The subject matter is excellent though some of the interviews are a bit drawn out. Very artistic filming of those being interviewed which helps make the four hours interesting.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2010
This is a powerful and incisive account through interviews carried out soon after the war, of people from all walks of life and political persuasion in Vichy France during the WWII. It is a good indication of the fascism that existed in France, bolstered by the bourgeoisie, the anti British feeling, the cruelty of the French to their own people including the Jews, the continuing pride of the common German soldier in Germany's actions during the war, the experience of those brave individuals who truly joined and fought in the resistance and the immediate aftermath of the war and the myth created by de Gaulle.
This myth has cushioned France against their inaction during the WWII. Watch this and you realise just how important keeping the European Community together is, nothwithstanding the difficulties. The cracks are papered over but have not gone.
Watch this. The film is in black and white with subtitles in English
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Black and White Documentary shot in the 1960's and initially not too appealing; but then as it unravels and meticulously details the events between 1940-1945 it becomes spellbinding: No wonder it created such a huge impact when first screened in France.
Ordinary French people, unlike the Poles, seemingly caved in to the Germanic overlords. The middle classes in particular, welcomed them as liberators from Leon Blum and the Popular Front, the pre war socialists. Whilst in 1939 the ladies of Paris clubbed together to buy rose bushes for the soldiers who manned the Maginot Line because it was feared they would be bored, staring at concrete, they were ready to soiree with the new Meister's in 1940 when they stomped around Paris.
Within a matter of weeks, France, a country that had bled itself dry in 1914-18 to keep the Teutons at bay, became severed into three parts; over manned by Germany, underwhelmed by Vichy and thin sliced by Fascist Italy.
France, the originators of European Nationalism became a vassal state to the 3rd Reich. Nominally kept out of the fighting, although it supplied the SS Charlemagne Division to the Eastern Front, it sent many workers to Germany to keep the German factories ticking over with a constant stream of munitions. Thereby, France freed up the Reich to send its young men to their early deaths on the Russian Steppes.
Composed of a series of interviews, some are former French Nationalist combatants, other Communists and Royalists as well as Gaullists, the documentary weaves a sense of historical magic as it strips away the amnesiac blanket France has covered herself in since 1940. She was not just conquered but she soired and sections of the population secretly welcomed the newcomers to liberate them from their peasants. Whilst the Germans embraced volk nationalism, the French turned their back on a Gallic identity to split themselves between Franks and Gauls. Absolutely incredible. These testimonies are powerful.
France under Petain, the piece of France the french were left to govern set about completing a self described Aryan mission. Jews, Communists and undesirables were sent to concentration camps, Drancy and numerous others before being shipped out to Poland. Anti English propaganda resonated from the Gallic loudspeakers and in true Orwell-speak the former German enemies were now deemed friends and the former ally became a pariah. Polish and French Jews who fought for the Foreign Legion against the Germans were rounded up and sent to a concentration camp in the Sahara. Ironically the Foreign Legion sent to fight the Viet Cong in 54 was composed of former Nazis.
Meanwhile France adjusted to the occupation with great relish, more so than we were led to believe within the UK. Recruiting under Doriot it formed its own militia; the milice, its police force again over-manned and led by Bousequet who continued in the role after the war. Each was complicit with flourishes in rounding up Jewish families and carting them off to the showers and onto the ovens.
Former Communist resistance, royalist resistance, Jewish people who survived Drancy and the other camps, paint a picture of a life that became a total spectacle, the mundanity of adaptation to the bully in the playground became a norm, as the French largely played the stooge. Salutations to those who resisted and sheltered the Jewish population, of which there were many! It was not all doom and gloom.
This film puts Ferdinand Celine's diatribes in a particular perspective, although he does not come out of this debacle with any credit, but he was also far from being someone who was out of synch with the general mood. Writer of Beaux Draps, Mea Culpa, Bagatelles and Cadavers this film details how a large huge chunk of the population became agnostic whilst a significant section were sheer advocates of all things Teutonic.
Meanwhile students, some intellectuals and rugged farmers created a resistance.
This is deeply fascinating, as it shows how nationalism, such a driving force in history can be eradicated in a blip of someones jackboot. All the certainties of the week before, suddenly become trashed and stamped upon.
A great piece of film making that brings out the thoughts of Jan Karski in Poland and details how National Socialism wrought great seismic changes that still echo under the radar even today.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2013
Should be compulsory viewing -
a. for far right sympathisers and apologists, to shame them;
b. for all French people who could do with a critical llok atb their 20th c history; and
c. for the blinkered British who smugly believe that we might have behaved better after defeat in 1940.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2013
This is a DVD every person should view. Ask yourself when you view it "what would I have done?"
The DVD is about France under occupation in the Second World War, It has a relevance now because it has been reflected in many other countries where there has been oppression. Do you react by cowardice or do you stand up to it and risk life, money, property and family?
Read also "A Train in Winter" by Caroline Moorehead if this DVD makes you think.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2013
German-born French-American documentary filmmaker Marcel Ophüls` documentary feature, made for television, which he co-wrote with French documentary filmmaker André Harris and which consists of two parts called "The Collapse" and "The Choice", premiered in West Germany, was shot on locations in France and Germany and is a France-Switzerland-West Germany co-production which was produced by André Harris and documentary filmmaker Alain de Sedouy. It tells the story about a commune in the Auvergne region in France nearby the country`s former capital city Vichy called Clermont-Ferrand 24 years after the German occupation of France (1940-1944) during the Second World War, the people of Clermont-Ferrand who survived the occupation, their living conditions during World War II, their relations with German soldiers and British allies, their political views, their views on the persecution of Jews and relations with them and their experiences of living under the occupation of another country.
Distinctly and finely directed by German-French-American filmmaker Marcel Ophüls, this finely tuned documentary which is narrated by the director and from multiple viewpoints, draws a comprehensive, intimate and informative portrayal of many French citizens` reactions to being confronted with direct, surprising, at times leading and interesting questions regarding their nation`s history and their own involvement in it. Through interviews with, amongst others, a former German Whermacht captain, a former prime minister of France, a former prime minister of Great Britain, an attorney during WW II, a pharmacist, a former British spy, members of the former French Resistance, a former French actor and musician and citizens of Clermont-Ferrand, this narrative-driven and in-depth documentary which is notable for its timely black-and-white cinematography by cinematographers Andre Gazut and Jürgen Thieme, creates a dense and invigorating depiction of international collaboration and relations within a French society marred by war which through a humane, hierarchical, political and historic viewpoint reflects on human conduct in times of war.
This sociological, conversational and at times humerous collection of war stories from the late 20th century which is set mostly in a city in France in the late 1960s and where the significant impact of war on a nation becomes tragically apparent, is impelled and reinforced by its fragmented narrative structure, efficient continuity, timely and comical use of music, use of archival and newsreel footage, interrelated stories, describing title "Le chagrin et la pitié", distinctive sense of irony, comment by a former member of La Résistance française regarding post-war Nazism : "A rose by another name is still a rose.", the extraordinary scene of an 18-year-old French girl who escaped from occupied France to London, England and Sir Anthony Eden`s graceful words about passing judgment. A cinematic, conscientious and eternalized documentation of history which in its poignantly rational manner conveys some of the atrocious truth about the consequences of war and the irrevocable affect it has left on history and humanity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2012
Very interesting, moving look at something that has been completely forgotten.
The French capitulated completely for lots of good reasons.
But as time went by it turned out to be the wrong decision.
This is about the consequences of taking the easy way out.
Some good ( Paris stll stands) some bad ( croneyism and cowardice never work).
The Germans are not portrayed as bad, just as Germans.
One comments at the end of the movie that it is a good thing they lost, otherwise they would currently (1969) be fighting in some other useless war.
The best laid plans of mice and men.