Grand Illusion

Directed by 

A film about war without a single scene of combat, Jean Renoir's 1937 masterpiece about French and German officers during World War I suggests that the true divisions of that conflict were of class rather than nationality.

The point is embodied in the friendship between two aristocratic officers, a German (Erich von Stroheim, in his greatest performance in a sound film) and a Frenchman (Pierre Fresnay), both of whom ultimately become sacrificial victims after a nouveau riche Jewish officer (Marcel Dalio) and a French mechanic (Jean Gabin) manage to escape from Stroheim's fortress to freedom. The relationship between the mechanic and a German widow (L'Atalante's Dita Parlo), who barely speak each other's language, is no less moving. The film doesn't have the polyphonic brilliance of Renoir's THE RULES OF THE GAME, made two years later, but it's still one of the key humanist expressions to be found in movies: sad, funny, exalting, and glorious. In French with subtitles.

Director Jean Renoir.  113 mins, NR.  (1937)

Part of a year-long, valley-wide conversation sponsored by the Amherst College Copeland Colloquium, this film series explores complex issues of cultures in translation. All screenings are introduced by an Amherst College or Five College faculty member and are followed by a 20-minute discussion.

Introduced by Cathy Ciepiela of Amherst College and followed by a 20-minute discussion along with Jay Caplan of Amherst College.

Cathy Ciepiela is a scholar and translator of modern Russian poetry.  She is the author of a book on Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak (The Same Solitude) and editor of two anthologies of Russian poems in translation,The Stray Dog Cabaret and Relocations.  Her translations have appeared in The New YorkerThe Nation, The Massachusetts ReviewSeneca Review, and Pequod.