In 1944, upper class boy Julien Quentin and his brother François travel to Catholic boarding school in the countryside after vacations. Julien is a leader and good student and when the new student Jean Bonnet arrives in the school, they have friction in their relationship.
However, Julien learns to respect Jean and discovers that he is Jewish and the priests are hiding him from the Nazis. They become best friends and Julien keeps the secret. When the priest Jean discovers that the servant Joseph is stealing supplies from the school to sell in the black market, he fires the youth. Sooner the Gestapo arrives at school to investigate the students and the priests that run and work in the boarding school.
Au revoir les enfants, meaning “Goodbye, Children”) is an autobiographical 1987 film written, produced and directed by Louis Malle. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
About the Story
During the winter of 1943-44, Julien Quentin, a student at a Carmelite boarding school in occupied France, is returning to school from vacation. He acts tough to the students at the school, but he is actually a pampered mother’s boy who still wets his bed. Saddened to be returning to the tedium of boarding school, Julien’s classes seem uneventful until Père Jean, the headmaster, introduces three new pupils. One of them, Jean Bonnet, is the same age as Julien. Like the other students, Julien at first despises Bonnet, a socially awkward boy with a talent for arithmetic and playing the piano.
One night, Julien wakes up and discovers that Bonnet is wearing a kippah and is praying in Hebrew. After digging through his new friend’s locker, Julien learns the truth. His new friend’s name is not Bonnet, but Jean Kippelstein. Père Jean, a compassionate, sacrificing priest of the old school, had agreed to grant a secret asylum to hunted Jews. After a game of treasure hunt, however, Julien and Jean bond and a close friendship develops between them.
When Julien’s mother visits on Parents’ Day, Julien asks his mother if Bonnet, whose parents could not come, could accompany them to lunch at a gourmet restaurant. As they sit around the table, the talk turns to Julien’s father, a factory owner. When Julien’s brother asks if he is still for Marshal Pétain, Madame Quentin responds, “No one is anymore.”
However, the Milice arrive and attempt to expel a Jewish diner. When Julien’s brother calls them “Collabos,” the Milice commander is enraged and tells Madam Quentin, “We serve France, madam. He insulted us.” However, when a Wehrmacht officer coldly orders them to leave, the Milice officers grudgingly obey. Julien’s mother comments that the Jewish diner appears to be a very distinguished gentleman. She insists that she has nothing against Jews, but would not object if the socialist politician Léon Blum were hanged.
Shortly thereafter, Joseph, the school’s assistant cook, is exposed for selling the school’s food supplies on the black market. He implicates several students as accomplices, including Julien and his brother, François. Although Père Jean is visibly distressed by the injustice, he fires Joseph but does not expel the students for fear of offending their wealthy and influential parents.
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)
Directed by: Louis Malle
Starring: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Francine Racette, Stanislas Carré de Malberg, Philippe Morier-Genoud, François Berléand, François Négret
Screenplay by: Louis Malle
Production Design by: Willy Holt
Cinematography by: Renato Berta
Film Editing by: Emmanuelle Castro
Costume Design by: Corinne Jorry
Makeup Department: Susan Robertson
Distributed by: MK2 Diffusion (France)
Release Date: August 29, 1987 (Venice), October 7, 1987 (France