After witnessing the death of her parents and pet dog during an air raid in the French countryside, five-year-old Paulette (Brigitte Fossey) befriends a young boy named Michel (Georges Poujouly) and is taken to live on his family farm. Paulette and Michel soon become obsessed with burying dead animals, and engage in the “forbidden game” of stealing crosses from the local church for their pet cemetery.
Response to Peary’s Review:
This “anti-war classic” (based on a novel by Francois Boyer) earns my vote as the single most devastating movie about childhood ever made. Its “horrifying, unforgettable opening scene” — in which five-year-old Paulette loses both her parents and her beloved pet dog within the space of a few heart-stopping minutes — is nearly beyond belief, as are the incredibly distressing, albeit realistic, final moments of the storyline (which, by the way, are “spoiled” in Peary’s review). Writer-director Rene Clement films Forbidden Games from a child’s perspective, and is primarily concerned with exploring how children cope with the chaos of wartime. While Peary expresses ambivalence about the meaning of the children’s obsession with burials (“I’ve never been able to figure out the significance of the children’s death-burial-prayer fascination”), to me the symbolism is crystal clear: in a world where unspeakable death surrounds them, children must find some way to regain a sense of personal agency. Peary also points out the disparity between the hypocritical “Christian” adults in this film — who are “habitually at odds with one another” — and the innocent simplicity of Paulette and Michel’s friendship. Rarely has a film so effectively portrayed the disparities between the fantasy-laden survival of children, and the brutish animosity of adults.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Brigitte Fossey as Paulette
- George Poujouly as Michel, Brigitte’s protective young “partner in crime”
Definitely, but be prepared for total emotional devastation.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)