A French boarding school run by priests seems to be a haven from World War II until a new student arrives. He becomes the roommate of top student in his class. Rivals at first, the roommates form a bond and share a secret.
Release Year: 1987
Rating: 8.1/10 (13,067 voted)
Stars: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Francine Racette
In 1944, upper class boy Julien Quentin and his brother François travel to Catholic boarding school in the countryside after vacations. Julien is a leader and good student and when the new student Jean Bonnet arrives in the school, they have friction in their relationship. However, Julien learns to respect Jean and discovers that he is Jewish and the priests are hiding him from the Nazis. They become best friends and Julien keeps the secret. When the priest Jean discovers that the servant Joseph is stealing supplies from the school to sell in the black market, he fires the youth. Sooner the Gestapo arrives at school to investigate the students and the priests that run and work in the boarding school.
Stanislas Carré de Malberg
(as Stanislas Carré De Malberg)
(as Luc Étienne)
Release Date: December 1987
Filming Locations: Institution Sainte-Croix, Provins, Seine-et-Marne, France
Did You Know?
Based on an incident from Louis Malle's own youth.
When in the woods and running from his 'captors,' Julien hides in the rocks. During this sequence, his hair changes between shots.
Stop acting so pious. There's a war going on, kid.
Lived-in feeling gives sad film great depth
The movie was a project close to Louis Malle's heart (he was in tears when
the film premiered at a film festival in 1987) and it shows in the
multi-layered treatment he gives the central setting, this fascinating
boarding school with its broad cast of characters. Because there are so many
different strands and affecting moments tangential to the central plot, one
is not entirely prepared for the finale even if you are expecting it. French
film is characteristically digressive, often to a fault, but here it works
to splendid advantage. It also lends itself to repeat viewings.
I don't think you need to have lived in occupied Europe to appreciate this
wonderful film; it speaks to all of us who have lived through childhood's
quickly-passing parade and know its lifelong regrets. That last image of the
stone wall is emblazoned in many consciousnesses, as it is in
There are many interesting choices Malle makes in this film. For example,
while the central subject is the Holocaust, nearly all the Germans we
actually see in the film are fairly decent if nonetheless menacing types.
The real villains here are almost entirely French collaborators, which was
done I think to call attention to collaboration during a period when the
French were dealing with the Klaus Barbie trial. [Barbie was a Gestapo
officer who was aided in his work rooting out Resistance leaders by many
French collaborators.] But casting French people as the heavies also
suggests the central evil of prejudice and oppression is not something
exclusive to one nationality, and it broadens the scope of the
The tender treatment Malle affords the Catholic hierarchy in the movie is
unusual, too, when you see other more anti-clerical Malle efforts like
"Murmur of the Heart." There is an unexpected sense of spirituality
throughout this film, somewhat muted but there all the
This may well stand as the cinematic masterpiece of a man who, at his best
(see also "Atlantic City" and "My Dinner With Andre") was to motion pictures
what his countrymen Zola and Hugo were to novels: An artist who filled his
canvas with the verve and breadth of human life.