Au Revoir les Enfants
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Time Out saysPlotwise Malle's autobiographical film, set in a Carmelite convent school in 1944, is simplicity itself: 12-year-old Julien doesn't understand why new boy Jean Bonnet - real name, he later learns is Kippelstein - is bullied by the other pupils and protected by the teachers. Only with the arrival of the Gestapo does he see the full implications of Jean's 'difference'. If the outcome of this sombre, lovingly detailed film is unsurprising, its emotional power remains undeniable, precisely because Malle never sentimentalises his material (neither boy is particularly loveable, nor is their friendship free of petty rivalries and cruelty). Instead, he creates an authentic mood of unspoken suspicions and everyday secrecy, drawing upon performances, decor, even nature itself to paint a wintry portrait of childhood on the brink of horrific discovery. The film's quiet integrity finally depends on his avoidance of heroic cliché and stylistic bombast, and on the unindulgent generosity extended towards his characters.