‘Through the character of Lucien, Malle presents us with an ambiguous portrayal of the collaborateur’. Discuss
“Despite an ever increasing amount of literature on the history of the Second World War in general and of Nazi rule in occupied Europe in particular, there is still no agreement on the exact meaning of the term ‘collaboration.’”
From this statement it is clear that the collaboration was an undeniably ambiguous time in French history, more so than the rest of the Second World War. It was unclear as to whether the French wanted a collaboration or not, as we see in Louis Malle’s Lacombe Lucien. By watching the film we see how Malle portrays a very distinct and clear image of France during the collaboration showing that there were collaborators and that there were also resistors. However it can be said that this clear image of France during the Second World War still does not eradicate the ambiguity of the collaboration. What was the ratio of collaborators and resistors, how did people become collaborators and how did this affect France? Various historians have tried to answer questions like these, but most have found it extremely difficult to give concrete answers to questions on this topic.
The collaboration was thought to be a political arrangement between two nations: “the victorious one which had occupied foreign territory and the defeated nation which tried to preserve as much independence as possible.” However it would be much to say that France tried to preserve as much independence as possible. France was consumed into Hitler’s evil regime and was manipulated to join forces and become a place where Fascism was the norm. In the film Lacombe Lucien, this is clearly illustrated, as we see innocent and ignorant people fall into the midst of the collaboration without knowing any better. A perfect example of this manipulation would be the main character in the film Lucien.
“Essentially the tale of a young boy who wants to join the Resistance but is shunned by them because of his youth, he joins the Gestapo.”
It is clear from this statement that Lucien has no idea what he is involving himself in. He joins essentially for one reason: to be in a group, a group that makes him feel wanted and powerful. In this case, Lucien acts as a representation of collaborators, he never really understands why he is a collaborator or why anyone else is a collaborator, but does understand to do as he is told.
“I wanted to make clear that he was accidentally transported into a situation he was not prepared for.”
Louis Malle clearly wanted to illustrate the way in which people were easily influenced and therefore manipulated into the collaboration during the Second World War. Louis Malle describes Lucien as “something so powerful, so ambiguous” in a way that represents perhaps the majority of youths joining the Gestapo in France. Indeed Louis Malle conveys a sense of ignorance within the young French society, whereby people only joined “accidentally” without knowing the consequences. As a young person, Lucien changes from being an ordinary youth to being a malicious part of society, someone who does not think rationally but does act spitefully. An example of this combination between power and ambiguity is portrayed through Lucien’s character throughout. At the start of the film we see Lucien as an ordinary peasant in the South of France, leading a fairly normal and basic life. We then however see Lucien change, marked by the change of his clothes from being quite scruffy and rural to smart and sophisticated. “Je m’en fiche” answers Lucien when M. Horn asks what suit he prefers. This conveys a sense of unwillingness and nonchalance of the character, thus showing that he doesn’t actually care about the reasons for this movement in France. Lucien could be seen therefore as a symbol for certain people in France at this time.
It can be said that the Second World War brought out the...
Bibliography: o Hirschfield, G and Marsh, P., Collaboration in France, Oxford, Berg Publishers Limited, 1989
o Hobart, T., Lacombe Lucien Film Review, The New York Times, http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/98399/Lacombe-Lucien/overview
o French, P., Malle on Malle, London, Faber and Faber, 1992
o Malle, L., Lacombe Lucien, U.S.A, 20th Century Fox, 1974
o Altman, C. F., Lacombe Lucien: Laughter as Collaboration, U.S.A, American association of Teachers of French, 1976
 G. Hirschfield & P. Marsh, Collaboration in France (Oxford: Berg Publishers Limited, 1989), p. 3
 Ibid, p
 C. F. Altman, Lacombe Lucien: Laughter as Collaboration (U.S.A: American association of Teachers of French, 1976), p. 551
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