So, late again with my entry for the Best Shot series. Still, tardiness and all, a few words on the the melancholy but very gorgeous Forbidden Games - the 1952 French war drama.
At the film’s beginning young Paulette sees both parents and her dog die on a roadway during the Battle of France while attempting to flee the city. Unsurprisingly distressed she’s eventually taken in by a peasant family – specifically Michel Dollé, the ten year old on the farm whom she begins to grow very attached to. The entire of the film is sombre enough to prepare the audience for the inevitably cheerless conclusion when it comes, and even the main plot of the children learning to love each other is underscored by darker things. The two bury Paulette’s dead dog and subsequently other dead animals – many of which don’t die naturally as the two children's childhood machinations becomes startlingly adult in uncomfortable moral ways. It’s why I initially thought I’d settle on this as my best shot candidate
The film is high on symbolism and foreshadowing and as Michel squashes the bug with his pencil Paulette protests. “It’s not me, it’s a bomb!” is Michel's response which sounds childish but is not very. It’s a common archetype of using potentially banal words of children to disclose larger world truths and it’s one of my favourite aspects of the film, no matter how chilling, as the children's actions over time become awkward distortions of adult behaviour. Even as Michel kills the innocuous bug he’s loathe to take responsibility – and it’s such a dismal indication of the larger societal issues which the children are surrounded by. Their lives are made up of death and darkness with few willing to take responsibility for them. As apt a representation of the film’s bleakness this was, though, I opted for a less sad entry.
And even this conventionally picturesque image is suggestive of darker things. For one, the small lamp in Michel’s hand is unable to do much against the encroaching. Paulette’s head at the centre is the strongest bit of light and heading outwards everything becomes duller suggesting both Paulette’s existence as a quasi-angelic being and the unnerving suggestion that sooner she, too, will become enveloped by the darkness. But amidst the darkness, the image of Michel fixing her blanket is such a warm image that it manages, but barely, to turn this dark image into something meagrely hopeful.
Head over to Nathaniel to see other, fuller, thoughts on great shots in Forbidden Games.