Date of Award:

Spring 2017

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Departmental Honors

Department:

English

Advisor/Chair:

Brian McCuskey

Abstract

This thesis compares two postwar critiques of escapist entertainment that appear in JeanPierre Melville's Le Silence de La Mer (1949), and Henri Verneuil's La Vache et le Prisonnier (1959). Their directorial choices acknowledge the power, even shortcomings of escapism through entertainment. Overall, Melville and Verneuil's films argue that escapism creates a "dream" cycle in which the audience, in an attempt to escape reality through entertainment. The films' cyclical narrative structures symbolize their characters' psychology, a tactic that frames Le Silence and La Vache into France's postwar culture. In a side-by-side comparison, the repetitive narrative structure of Le Silence and La Vache demonstrates that there was no escape from the war, mentally or physically. In addition to the films' structures, their inverted genre conventions are also didactic. They send a message to the audience that a story's resolution does not translate to reality, and sometimes, after much effort, resolution cannot be attained. The unfulfilling character arcs for each main character, Werner and Charles, are evidence of this grounded commentary on escapist entertainment. In addition to being similar, these character arcs reflect a continuation of one narrative. Despite being in two different genres, Charles's struggle is a sequel to Werner's. This comprehensive examination of the two films describes the several different layers of escapism that French postwar cinema either presented or critiqued.

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