French film directed in 1987 that won the Golden Lion award. It's probably a classic French film.
It opens with a line of children singing some religious song ,ringing a bell in a French village, skipping to class. How sentimental. I was not interested at all. I thought it was going to be a religious film, and try to charm me with the delights of a lovely little French village, and the whole clichéd emotional children-during-wartime themes, which is still being done today.
It centres around the lives of children in a Catholic school in rural, occupied France during WW2. 1987 seems very late to make a film about WW2 that would cover anything that hasn't already been done. This isn't a war film; it's more a film about the "innocence of children" (yes, that's a genre). The chemistry between the child actors in this film is incredible, and is the best acting from children I've seen. There are other films that have won awards for phenomenal child actors, but their roles haven't been much more than mute, looking around with big gloomy eyes, or yes/no responses.
The acting from the children gives the environment a very frightening atmosphere, even without the Nazis. It's not exactly a tragic film. The "au revoir/goodbye" does refer to the Nazis getting involved in the school's affairs in the end, but then it doesn't try and directly upset the audience, and has a more subtle approach. By 1987 even the average person knew what the Holocaust was, it had been shown in film so many times before, and in 1993 was made obvious.
The acting won this film awards, the subject matter it covers and being classified a war film don't do it any justice at all. I think this film needed to be made late in the year, to allow the type of acting to mature, and not seem like it's trying to cash-in on WW2 by glorifying the horror, or forcing the audience to feel upset that millions of people died, or nationalistic pride, etc. You can make a film set during any time period or any war, but if you concentrate more on the war or romances (like in Casablanca) than the people themselves it takes away the truth, which is something that this film holds onto through 10 year old actors.