French 3090 October 24, 2005
"The Grande Illusion", the 1938 French film by Jean Renoir, is a fine example of how war impacts individuals and changes their views during a major war, however outside the norms of battles and warfare. The title of the film can be read and deciphered in many ways. The "grand illusion" could be interpreted as one singular imposing "grand" perception during the Great War; and the word "grand" can also come to mean "all-inclusive" describing the war with a scope of many "sub-illusions." The main "sub-illusion" that is going to be discussed here is the idea that the war was going to be short and basically would not change views, society, or Europe in any drastic fashion. Although this idea is explored mainly using the film "The Grande Illusion", it is also hinted in other French films and literature such as Pierre-Jakez Helias's "Horses of Pride" and Henri Barbusse's Under Fire.
The term "illusion" can be defined as "Something, such as a fantastic plan or desire, that causes an erroneous belief or perception." A key term in that specific definition is "plan." It seemed that no power, not only the French, had planned for a war of that scale. Most planning for a war at that time came from the planning of a previous war, and the short, quickly-fought Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and 1871 was that previous war. Each belligerent power had this "fantastic" design which led to an "erroneous belief" that their side could not lose and almost nothing would change culturally or physically. The thought of a short, exciting, and even an oxymoronically "fun" war also developed from this illusion. Some felt that "making the best" of war was the notion since it was going to be a fleeting conflict. All of these concepts can be found directly and discretely in "The Grande Illusion."
Early in the film, after the capture of pilots Capt. de Boeldieu and...