Malle + Melville = Resistance
“This film has no pretension of solving the problem of Franco-German relations, for they cannot be solved while the barbarous Nazi crimes, committed with the complicity of the German people, remain fresh in men’s minds.”
These are the opening lines of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Silence de la Mer. Of the La Résistance filmmakers, his message is the most aggressive, the most caustic. Part of this can be attributed to the time and political situation when he directed his films, which also include Leon Morin, Priest and Army of Shadows.
Louis Malle, on the other hand, has a different style entirely. His methodology is almost lamentation, even nostalgia and pride towards actions taken during the resistance. He throws a wrench in everything by portraying a French collaborator in Lacombe, Lucien, making his protagonist an unquestionable traitor to his country.
Malle made his resistance films later than Melville, and had the benefit of his own maturity and the sentiment that time heals all wounds. Politically, the two filmmakers were not too indifferent, and they both had some participation with the resistance.
My project for this semester has been narrowed down to just these two auteurs. There are countless others who expressed their feelings towards the occupation through film, specifically Clouzot, Bresson, Chabrol, Truffault, and others. Due to space, they are being snipped from this project. I don’t blame my professor from doing so, since this could blow up to become a 100-page opus. Even with extra free time on my hands, that would be too much for me.
While I’m working on the project, I will look at many of these other films. I’ll probably talk about those films here, while leaving my core work for my professor. I’m feeling good about this project, and if turns out how I hope, it’s possible I could explore publication or perhaps a larger work.
Here are the films that I’ll be focusing on:
La Silence de la Mer
Leon Morin, Priest
Army of Shadows
Au Revoir Les Enfants
Murmur of the Heart
The latter Malle film has less to do with the resistance, and more towards post-war France, but that might be worthwhile as a postscript to this project.