A heartbreaking story of friendship and loss concerning two boys living in Nazi-occupied France. At a provincial Catholic boarding school, the precocious youths enjoy true camaraderie—until a secret is revealed. Based on events from writer-director Louis Malle’s own childhood, the film is a subtle, precisely observed tale of courage, cowardice, and tragic awakening.
Malle had an intellectually curious nature that led him to approach film from a variety of angles; he was as comfortable making minimalist works like the wordless Humain trop humain and the talky André as phantasmagorical ones like Black Moon. He is probably best known, though, for his deeply personal films about the terrors and confusions of childhood, such as Murmur of the Heart and Au revoir les enfants. Perhaps not as well-known is his parallel career as a master of the nonfiction form—one of his many documentary achievements was the seven-part Phantom India, which would be a stunning career centerpiece for anyone else; for this director, it was simply a fascinating side project. Malle died in 1995, shortly after directing his final film, the typically experimental Vanya on 42nd Street.