Forbidden Games, 1952

Forbidden Games is a simple, yet deeply affecting story about loss and the ravages of war. Filmed from the perspective of children, René Clément juxtaposes the innocence of youth with the insight of maturity. The result is a powerful and unrelenting film that operates on a purely visceral level – from the haunting theme to the heartbreaking conclusion. Paulette (Brigitte Fossey), a Parisian girl orphaned during an air raid, retrieves her dead dog from the river, and in the process, gets lost. Michel (Georges Poujouly), a young boy searching for an errant calf, finds her, and takes her home to his family’s farm. There is an immediate bond between them, and the children quickly become friends: Paulette, lonely and afraid, and Georges, protective and kind. But the pastoral life proves no more idyllic than occupied Paris, and soon, death takes its toll. Imitating the burial ritual of the adults around them, the children build a crude memorial to honor the dead (a theme similarly developed in Francois Truffaut’s The Green Room). It is through their eyes that we cannot see the impossibility of things. It is through our own perspective that we understand the hopelessness of their situation. Forbidden Games is a bittersweet film that shows the devastation of war by touching an emotional cord, without the visual carnage.

Clément uses a narrative style of filming. There are few, if any, cinematic tricks used in the film. The shots are minimalist, direct, and unflinching. Consequently, the film seems journalistic or documentary in style. He presents his visual argument without prejudice, and we, as observers, bring our own life experiences into the analysis of its meaning. The effect is intensely personal, emotionally devastating, and truly unforgettable.

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