Lacombe Lucien

Screening on Film
Directed by Louis Malle.
With Pierre Blaise, Aurore Clément, Holger Löwenadler.
France, 1973, 35mm, color, 133 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

C is for Children of War

Based loosely on the experiences of a Nazi collaborator who lived in the director’s family home during the German occupation, Lacombe Lucien was one of the first of Louis Malle’s many explorations of the darker side of the human psyche. Malle took a tremendous risk by casting a seventeen-year-old non-actor (Blaise) to play the role of Lucien, a teenager prevented from joining the Resistance because of his age who is then easily recruited by the other side. Malle’s early experience working with Bresson on A Man Escaped can be seen here in the claustrophobic details of Lucien’s daily rounds as he informs on his compatriots and collaborates with the German Gestapo. Yet the director creates moral complexity in the character, whose naive embrace of the power of fascism is tempered by his discovery of feelings for the daughter of the Jewish tailor he is persecuting.

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Cinema A–Z: Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive