Lacombe Lucien

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“More provocative than thought-provoking.” Explain how far you agree with this evaluation of Louis Malle’s “Lacombe Lucien.” Louis Malle’s film “Lacombe Lucien” is one full of scandals, controversies and unexpected traumas. It is perhaps for this reason that contemporary French historian, Henry Rousso, described the film as “more provocative than thought-provoking.” Central to Malle’s film is the eponymous hero, Lucien, a young Frenchman who joins the Gestapo. The film portrays Lucien’s experiences of working for the Gestapo while giving us a strong insight into his private life in which he is in love with a Jewish girl, France. This essay will critically examine to what extent Rousso’s evaluation of “Lacombe Lucien” is credible by analysing the various techniques Malle employs to shock the reader and evoke them to think about the complex issues not only surrounding the French Occupation, but surrounding Lucien as a character. “I wanted to provoke some thought, cast doubts, force the viewer to reconsider conventional ideas, for example that a collaborator was a monster.” Malle uses certain techniques in order to provoke the reader to think that anyone could be a collaborator. Such a technique is Malle’s accurate mis-en-scene. In addition to selecting locals to be his actors rather than professionals, Malle dresses the actors in realistic clothes, which provokes the viewer to think about how the clothes reflect the development of Lucien as a character. When we are first introduced to Lucien he is dressed as a French peasant labourer, wearing loose dull clothing and a beret. During this time period, the Third Reich had outlawed the wearing of the beret as it was seen to connote “frenchness” and therefore resistance. As Lucien becomes more deeply involved with the Gestapo, he changes his clothes. He has a suit hand-made for him and when he tries it on for the first time he is still wearing the beret. The reader is provoked to acknowledge that though the suit...
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