Title of Oral/Poster Presentation

Running in REM Cycles: Escapism in French Postwar Cinema

Presenter Information

Danielle GreenFollow

Class

Article

Graduation Year

2017

College

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department

English Department

Faculty Mentor

Brian McCuskey

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Abstract

This essay examines critiques of escapist entertainment in the postwar films Le Silence de La Mer (1949), a drama by Jean-Pierre Melville, and La Vache et le Prisonnier (1959), a comedy by Henri Verneuil. Their directorial choices acknowledge the power, even shortcomings of escapism through entertainment. Overall, Melville and Verneuil are arguing that escapism can feel like living in a dream that we are too scared to wake up from. In their argument, Melville and Verneuil use cyclical narrative structures to 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.

Location

North Atrium

Start Date

4-13-2017 12:00 PM

End Date

4-13-2017 1:15 PM

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Apr 13th, 12:00 PM Apr 13th, 1:15 PM

Running in REM Cycles: Escapism in French Postwar Cinema

North Atrium

This essay examines critiques of escapist entertainment in the postwar films Le Silence de La Mer (1949), a drama by Jean-Pierre Melville, and La Vache et le Prisonnier (1959), a comedy by Henri Verneuil. Their directorial choices acknowledge the power, even shortcomings of escapism through entertainment. Overall, Melville and Verneuil are arguing that escapism can feel like living in a dream that we are too scared to wake up from. In their argument, Melville and Verneuil use cyclical narrative structures to 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.