Forbidden Games (René Clément, 1952)

What's it about? Paulette (Brigitte Fossey) is young French girl taken in by a peasant family during WWII when her parents are killed. Becoming fast friends with the young son Michel (Georges Poujouly), the two children begin playing games imitating the tragedies of war.

Is it any good? One of the first films to filter war through the eyes of children, portraying a touching relationship between the two children as they struggle to comprehend the death they see around them. Helped by wonderfully natural performances from the kids, it delivers a powerful anti-war message without being overly sentimental or judgmental as it builds to an emotional climax. However, it also features some elements of broad knockabout farce at the expense of the peasant class, which seem a bit misjudged, or even mean, detracting from the overall impact. I didn't think it as profound as, say, The Spirit of the Beehive, nor as affecting as, for example, Grave of the Fireflies or Pan's Labyrinth, all of which also examine the effects of war upon children. Nevertheless, it's worth a watch. Also, good to see a film acknowledge that unsupervised young children are basically psychopathic in their behaviour. Anyone with kids will already know this.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Regarded as a classic by many for being a sensitive and clear-eyed examination of the loss of childhood innocence. It has also drawn praise for daring to explore the subject of death through the skewed, yet perfectly acceptable, logic of childhood fantasy. Here's a big long essay about the film if you have to write a report on it. Wasn't the biggest commercial hit in the world, though, because not everyone was dying to see a film about necrophiliac kids. Crazy, eh?

What does the Fonz think? Careful! Children playing.

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