If you look up the word banal in the English dictionary, you will find its meanings to be, common, ordinary, commonplace. This film explores the common and everyday nature of evil. This film does not look at the wider evil such as the Nazi occupation and its military machine, its organised fascist cruelty and its genocidal politics. The film looks at how “ordinary people” survive in this complex, evil world of nazism.
We see the banality of evil in this film straight away. In scene one we see Lucien in the hospital , he kills a little bird who is singing happily outside in the sunshine, he reveals his casual callousness by using his slingshot to kill the bird. Here the casual manner of Lucien’s brutality is contrasted with the simple beauty of nature. This can also be seen in scene six where Lucien shoots and kills rabbits until he has no bullets left and in scene seven where he beheads a chicken without so much as a flinch. The film explores the banal, everyday nature of evil.
For me, the character of Betty Beaulieu is banality personified. She is oblivious to the evil going on around her. She just wants to live her life, attend parties and go out to night clubs. In scene sixteen Betty goes upstairs to watch as the schoolteacher, known as “Voltaire” is tortured by some of the members of the German police, she says she finds it amusing. She is amoral, she is a survivor who looks after number one. She says,
“Je m’en fiche pas mal si c’est les Anglais ou les Allemandes qui gagner la guerre!…”
By an ordinary, banal twist of faith she dies at the hands of the Maquis.
In my opinion one of the most common, everyday forms of evil is bullying and this is one of the main themes of the film. Bullying is evil, it is banal and everyday. Jean-Bernard bullies Horn simply because he has the power to do so. It is somewhat like a school playground, bullying to feel big and make others feel...