“Frontiers are an invention of men; nature doesn’t give a hoot.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
A number of memorable, powerful sequences are sprinkled throughout the film — including, as noted by Peary, the scene in which a soldier “dresses up like a female for a variety show, [and] all the men silently stare at him, thinking about the women the war has taken from them”:
and the moment when “Russian prisoners receive textbooks and cookbooks instead of the expected food from their insensitive empress”.
The final “act” of the film — once Gabin and Dalio have escaped and found refuge in the home of a German farm woman (Dito Parlo) — takes on a decidedly different tone from what’s come before; Renoir seems determined to show an idealized alternative to war, in which a French soldier and a German woman can fall in love “despite not knowing each other’s languages”. I have mixed feelings about this sudden shift in narrative and mood, but it’s lovely to see Parlo (so memorable in Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante) in another significant role.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)