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Bishops Castle Film Society

Lacombe, Lucien - 7 Nov 2018

dir. Louis Malle. France. 1974. 132m

In German occupied France in 1944, 17-year-old Lucien Lacombe (Pierre Blaise) takes no moral standpoint on the war, being more concerned with his own needs and how he can break away from his menial hospital job. After trying to join the Resistance, who deem him too young, he encounters the Carlingue, French auxiliaries of the Gestapo who ruthlessly hunt down and torture anyone who opposes them. Recognising that collaboration with the Carlingue will afford him the status and power he desires, Lucien joins their ranks.



He uses his newly acquired status to occupy the house of a Jewish tailor, where he falls for the tailor’s daughter, introducing a level of complexity to his situation with which he is ill equipped to deal either emotionally or intellectually. When Lucien and a German officer are sent to raid the house, Lucien must make a choice which will seal his fate. The film seems to suggest that some of the French citizens in Vichy France who became willing accomplices of the Nazi regime did so without regard to - or much understanding of – the moral questions involved, but simply because collaboration seemed the easy option and served their own immediate ends.

“[This] film isn’t really about French collaborators, but about a particular kind of human being, one capable of killing and hurting, one incapable of knowing or caring about his real motives.” [RogerEbert.com, online, undated] “Malle’s film is a long, close look at the banality of evil…. [H]ow people with no interest in politics become active participants in brutal torture.” [Pauline Kael, New Yorker 1974]



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