Au revoir les enfants

  • Directors: Louis Malle
  • Producers: Louis Malle
  • Writers: Louis Malle
  • Genres: Drama, War
  • Actors: Gaspard Manesse, Philippe Morier Genoud, Francine Racette

During the winter of 1943, Julien Quentin, a pampered mother’s boy, leaves his home in Paris at the end of Christmas break. Saddened to be returning to the tediousness of boarding school, Julien’s classes seem uneventful until Père Jean, the headmaster, introduces three new pupils. One of them, Jean Bonnet, is the same age as Julien. Julien at first despises Bonnet, a standoffish intellectual who is being picked on by the rest of the class.

After a game of capture the flag, however, they bond and a very close friendship develops between them. One night Julien wakes up and discovers that Bonnet is wearing a kippah and is praying in the Hebrew language. After ransacking his new friend’s locker, Julien learns the truth. His new friend’s name is not Bonnet, but Jean Kippelstein. Père Jean, a dignified, sacrificing priest of the old school, has agreed to grant a secret asylum to hunted Jews.

When Julien’s mother visits, he arranges for Bonnet to accompany them to lunch at a gourmet restaurant. As they sit around the table, the talk turns to Julien’s father, a factory owner. When Julien’s brother asks if he is still for Marshall Pétain, Madame Quentin responds, “No one is anymore.” However, the Milice arrives and attempts to expel a Jewish diner. When Julien’s brother calls them, “Collabos,” the Milice commander is enraged and tells Madam Quentin, “We serve France, madam. He insulted us.” However, when a Wehrmacht officer coldly orders them to leave, the Milice officers grudgingly obey. Julien’s mother comments that the Jewish diner appears to be a very distinguished gentleman. She insists that she has nothing against Jews, but would not object if the socialist politician Léon Blum were hanged.

In a voiceover epilogue, an older Julien reveals that the passage of forty years still has not dimmed his memory of that horrible day. The children, he states, were all murdered at Auschwitz. Père Jean was imprisoned with other anti-Nazi priests at Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, where he died shortly after the Americans took over the camp.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *