63. The Grand Illusion (1937)
directed by Jean Renoir
It may be hard to believe, but there is more that unites we humans than divides us. We all have the capacity for love and the desire for friendship. This is on full display in Renoir’s brilliant Grand Illusion. In World War I, several French soldiers are captured and put in a German POW camp. The man in charge of said camp seems as if he will be a brutal disciplinarian, but he is, in reality, a sensitive man whose civility transcends the accepted beliefs about war. And yet, despite his amiable attitude, we find that even he makes a clear distinction between people. His noble roots have taught him to look down on those in the lower classes. This is the brilliance of Renoir. In the midst of a war film, which, by definition, requires a certain “Us and Them” mentality, he chooses to make even larger statements. Country, class, race, religion; we will always find some way to divide humanity. Renoir cuts through this illusion by showing us the reality that, underneath, we all basically want and need the same things.