A Gentlemen's War
12 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Renoir uses the element of directing to expose the predominant theme of this film: friendships are what sustain human life. Rather than choosing to focus on the suffering and angst of war, Renoir hones in on the humane aspects of brotherly love and kindness to display this message. This is revealed from the very beginning. When French pilots are captured behind enemy lines by the Germans, they are taken to prison amongst other nationalities where all are treated with respect. It seems more like a gentlemen's war in this regard. Renoir establishes this veneration by showing the veteran prisoners warning the newcomers of material confiscation. They do this by playfully singing a song about "hiding your valuables." Renoir further directs the viewer's attention to the theme of friendship by showing that although the prisoners come from different backgrounds (i.e. occupations, interests, nationalities) they still can gather together in a welcoming environment to eat a home-cooked meal. They also help one another support the cause of escape by digging a tunnel under the barracks. Even under the direction of choosing the title of the film, Renoir ironically suggests that the grand illusion of war is war itself. War is what creates a violent façade over what matters most—human relationships.

Again this theme presents itself when the main character, Marechal (a Frenchmen), attempts to give information to an incoming caught Englishmen regarding an escaping tunnel in one of the barracks. Even though there is a language barrier and neither one of them understand each other, the attempt was made and further contributes to the spirit of unification and friendship. Through Renoir's sense of direction, he deliberately eliminates any prejudice between race and military status and in turn establishes a wonderful connection between all of the characters.

The most powerful moment in the film that completely seals the theme is when Renoir romantically brings Marechal and a German widow together in a Romeo & Juliet type manner. Despite their countries fighting in a war with each other, they see beyond the hatred and find love. It is this love that clinches the highest form of friendship.
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