Jeux interdits (Forbidden Games) (1952)




Director:    René Clément.

Starring:    Georges Poujouly (Michel Dolle), Brigitte Fossey (Paulette), Amédée (Francis Gouard), Laurence Badie (Berthe Dolle), Madeleine Barbulée (Red Cross Nun), Suzanne Courtal (Madame Dolle), Lucien Hubert (Dolle, the Father), Jacques Marin (Georges Dolle), Pierre Merovée (Raymond Dolle), Violette Monnier, Denise Péronne (Jeanne Gouard), Fernande Roy, Louis Saintève (Priest), André Wasley (Gouard, the Father),

German invasion of France and its effects as seen through the eyes of a small French girl who loses her parents and her dog



Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the film.

June 1940. French men, women and children are fleeing from the oncoming German army in World War II. There are so many refugees that the one-way traffic goes very slowly. And now comes the German airplanes to bomb and strafe the people. The people run into an open field to get away from the road. Bombs fall and people are killed.

A little girl named Paulette and her parents from Paris now rush back to their car. Paulette carries a terrier dog with her. Dad can't get the car started and people start yelling at him to go or get out of the way. Dad opens the hood to look to see what's the problem, but the men grab the car and send it down the slope and into the large field.

The parents run down to retrieve some of their belongings and then return to the road. But here comes more problems. More German planes are dropping bombs on the road. Paulette and her parents have to get on the ground of the road right away.

The little dog Jock gets away from Paulette and goes running down the road. Paulette chases after the dog and Paulette's parents run after Paulette. And here comes a plane strafing the road.

Paulette gets her dog and then the parents grab Paulette and they all fall into a heap on the road. Here come the machine gun fire from a plane. The firing kills mother, father and dog, but Paulette is spared.

Paulette slowly realizes that both her parents are dead. She sees the dog's back legs moving, so she picks the dog up. A man pulling a wagon with his wife in the wagon stops to pick up Paulette. Paulette sits next to the wife. She sees that the dog is dead and she has to use force to separate the dog from the girl. She says that the dog is dead and then slings the dog over the bridge and into the water below.

The cart gets stuck between the bridge and a passing car and Paulette uses the confusion to get off the wagon and head down to the stream. Not understanding what death is, she is determined to find her dog.

She follows the stream and catches up to the dog. She picks up her dog and then runs to get back on the road.

A runaway horse pulling a wagon stops by a field to eat. This is the Dolle family farm. The grown son, Georges, runs over to grab the horse. His mother yells to Georges that the horse is a war-horse and he better not touch it. Georges goes ahead to get control of the horse. A German plane now buzzes the field. The horse gets scared and starts running again. Georges is in the way and the horse kicks him, so Georges gets badly hurt. He screams out in pain.

The family runs over to him and picks him up to take him back to the farm house. While that takes place, one of the cows starts to run away. The little son of the family, Michel Dolle, starts chasing after the cow. The cow goes down to the stream for some water and passes right by Paulette who starts to cry.

Michel asks Paulette why didn't she stop the cow? Paulette says she is carrying her dog. Michel looks at the dog and asks what's wrong with the dog? Paulette says it's dead. Michel asks where is her mother? Dead. Where is her father? Dead.

Michel goes to get his cow by the stream. He wants Paulette to go with him. She asks: "What about my dog?" Michel replies. "Leave it. I'll find you another one." So the little girl puts the dog down on the grass.

On the path to the farm house the neighbor's dog passes by them. Paulette asks if that is the dog Michel is going to give her? No, it belongs to the neighbors and Michel's family and the Gouard family do not get along. Paulette asks for the boy's family name? It's Dolle. And now they say their first names.

Michel drives the cow into the barn. Then a terrible fight develops between the Gouard and the Dolle dog. Father has to chase the other dog back across the bridge over the stream. Mr. Gouard sees this and a verbal fight begins between the two men.

Dad breaks off the conversation, turns around and now sees a little girl with Michel. He asks his son who is this little girl? Michel says her parents were both killed. Dad asks what does he want him to do with the girl? Michel says they could keep the girl. Dad basically says no way can they keep the girl. So Michel says the Gouards can take care of her. And now dad says no way again.  The Dolle family will keep her.

The three of them go into the house where the wounded son is being undressed and put into bed. There's one more Dolle son. He is also grown and helps put his wounded brother into bed. Mother brings over a glass of milk and they sit the wounded man up in bed. Georges sees the little girl and asks who's that? Dad says she came from the road.

Now the whole family starts asking Paulette all kinds of questions. She clams up. They try to get her to finish Georges' milk, but Paulette is repulsed by the idea because there's a dead fly is in the milk. So mother sticks her finger into the milk to extract the fly and then tries to give the glass of milk to the little girl. Paulette still refuses to take the glass.

At the dining table, with a sleepy Paulette on his lap dad starts to read the war news aloud from the newspaper: "Our troops' resistance continues to be strong and effective. " A young woman, Berthe, sees the picture of Gouard's son in the paper on the back page. Dad turns to the page. Everyone wants to know why Gouard is in the newspaper? The sister says why not, because, after all, he was decorated for his service.

The middle son says: "Seventeen dead on the bridge just today." And now appears still another sister making it five siblings.

They put Paulette into bed upstairs, but she starts crying out for Michel because she's afraid of the dark and wants him to stay with her. The room lights up from bomb explosions outside. Paulette just hides under the covers.

Paulette cries a bit and tells Michel that she doesn't want to stay at the farm. Michel asks her but where would she go? Back to her other and father on the bridge. Michel says her parents are no longer on the bridge. Paulette asks where are her parents? Michel says they are in a hole now. Then she reasons that her dog must also be put in a hole so he won't get wet. She falls asleep and now Michel can go to bed.

In the middle of the night Georges hears a terrible scream from Paulette. He has to throw something at Michel to get him up to attend to the little girl. The boy grabs a small lantern and goes up to see Paulette. She says she didn't call out. He puts the cover back over her and she quickly falls asleep.

Michel goes downstairs and Georges says that now he can't get any sleep. So Michel grabs the newspaper and starts to read it aloud to Georges.

Mother tells the family that they will have to report that they have a small girl at their farm to the Mayor or the police. Michel and Paulette go running outside. Paulette has a hoe and she wants to dig a hole for her dog.

A priest comes by and Paulette hides the dog behind her back. He asks where does she live? With the Dolle family because both her papa and mama are dead. The priest asks her doesn't she want to say a prayer for her parents? She says she doesn't know how. So the priest has her repeat what he says to her. She can't give the sign of the cross because she is still holding on to her dog. So the priest tells her that Michel will teach her because he knows his catechism very well. He now leaves.

Michel comes looking for her. He calls out for her, but she doesn't answer. She goes into the old mill where she will dig a hole for the dog. Michel comes into the old mill and sees her digging a hole. He takes over the job of hoeing for her.

Michel tells her they will build a nice little cemetery for the dog. They also plan to bury other animals next to Jock so he won't be lonely in his hole. Michel goes up to see the old owl that they call Mayor. Meanwhile, Paulette buries her little dog. She says a prayer over the dog.

Michel finds a dead mole by the owl and takes it down to Paulette for burial next to the dog. He starts digging the hole for the mole. He says they will get crosses to put on the graves.

In the house Michel starts making crosses for the animal graves. The family soon complains about all the noise he is making. Michel just keeps banging away. Dad comes up and slaps him on the side of the face. He then asks Michel about his making crosses in the home of a sick man? Does Michel want his brother to die?

Michel has to stay upstairs and go without dinner tonight. As they dole out the soup, Georges starts moaning in pain. The middle brother goes over to him and tells their mother that Georges is spitting up blood. Mother wants someone to say prayers for Georges. Paulette speaks up saying that Michel knows his prayers. Dad calls for Michel to come downstairs and say some prayers.

Michel sits at the table saying the prayers. Georges dies.

Dad fixes up the hearse wagon for Georges. Michel helps him by handing him the nails and tools when he needs them. He sees the hearse has small crosses around its border on top of the roof. He starts to pull one down. He has to stop because dad asks him do they need to nail down those crosses on top? Michel says no.

Later Michel tells his playmate that he got three crosses for the animal graves.

One day the boy next-door returns home from the war. He stands in front of the house and starts blowing the trumpet he has with him. He then goes into the house. The Dolle family stands at their doorway to watch and listen. They have Michel go over next-door to see if it is the boy back from the war.

Dad Gouard asks his boy where are the Prussians? The son replies that they are not far away from them. Dad sees Michel through the window. He gets up and yells what is Michel up to? Michel says he was just cutting some grass. Michel runs home quickly. Going inside the house he tells his family that Francis is, indeed, back home. Dad tells his eldest daughter that he doesn't want to see her together with Francis.

Michel gives two dead chicks to Paulette. She asks him: "You swear you didn't kill them?" Yes.

Paulette is out in the fields picking wildflowers for the graves. She tumbles onto Francis and the oldest Dolle girl laying on the ground. When they see her coming they pop right up to a sitting position. Paulette has no idea what they are doing. When Paulette is gone, the couple go back to what they were doing.

Now the couple hears the sounds of bombs going off. Francis says they're following him.

The funeral is held for Georges. The church choir sings at the ceremony. Dad stays outside to work on the hearse some more. It's then that he notices that three of the crosses are missing from the top. That puzzles him. Who would take them? Michel suggests Gouard and dad thinks the boy is right.

Dad disturbs the whole congregation when he opens the church door and calls out for Michel.  Michel comes and dad says the crosses must have fallen off the top of the hearse. He wants Michel to go down the road to see if any of the crosses fell off on their way to the church.

Francis talks to his father about marrying Berthe. For that he gets gets knocked down on the ground. Francis still says he wants to marry Berthe.

The funeral attendees walk over to the grave. The kids are admiring the crosses in the cemetery and they think of what cross would go nicely with the different animal graves.

Michel confesses to the father that he stole the crosses from the hearse. The priest is a bit upset with Michel, but he just tells him to bring the three crosses to him and say his words of contrition.

Michel takes his shoes off, grabs a chair and goes up on the altar to take a big cross.

Berthe tells the priest that she wants to marry Francis. She asks the priest to please reconcile their parents to the marriage.

Michel grabs for the cross but he knocks it over instead. The falling cross makes a very loud noise, so Michel runs and hides in another room. The priest comes out to see what happened and when he understands what happened, he yells out for Michel. The priest goes into the back room and pulls Michel out.

He tell Michel he just repented for stealing crosses and a few moments later he commits an even worse sin by going up on the altar to steal a cross.. He cuffs him around the ears and Michel runs out of the church.

At the dining table dad tells everyone that he talked to Gouard about stealing the crosses off hearses. Gouard denied that he did any such thing and then they exchanged insults.  Paulette cries. Paulette later suggests that they could get crosses from the main church cemetery.

At night Michel and Paulette go get the wheelbarrow. They are going to fill it up with grave crosses. Bombing starts in the area and that really scares Paulettte. They get the crosses and head to the mill.

The Dolle family is going to pay a visit to the church cemetery. The previous night, one of the crosses dropped out of the wheel barrow. Now the family finds the cross and recognizes it as the one put on the grave of Georges. Again, they think the Gouards did it. By the way, not to be outshined by the Dolles, the Gouards are heading to the cemetery to spruce up Georges' grave.

Mr. Dolle is shocked to see the marker gone from Georges' grave. So dad decides to pull down the grave marker of a Gouard family member. While dad is utterly destroying the grave marker, the Gouards arrive. The two older males start shoving each other, more verbal insults are exchanged and a real fight develops. The two, however, very quickly fall into an open grave hole. They continue hitting each other in this narrow confine.

The priest comes running out. Dad tells the priest that Gouard stole Georges' cross and grave marker. Gouard yells that he doesn't steal from the dead. So now the priest tells both men who is the guilty culprit. Oh, Michel! Michel is already on the run out of there. Now, everyone starts chasing after Michel.

The children's animal cemetery is very large now with crosses, grave signs and the names of the animal species buried in the cemetery. There hides Michel enjoying the eating of an apple.

Michel watches as Berthe tries to get Paulette to tell her where Michel put those crosses. She really puts some pressure on the little girl. That is, until Michel tells her to stop it or else he will tell dad about her being with Francis Gouard. So Berthe keeps her mouth shut.

Michel sneaks away and sleeps in the barn. The next morning Paulette awakens the boy. They go over to see the animal cemetery.

A car drives up to the Dolle house. Two policemen get out of the car. Dad figures that their neighbors complained to the police about the missing crosses. So dad hurries around searching for Michel. He finds him in the barn with Paulette.

He starts hitting and slapping Michel and kicking him in the rear-end. And now the sounds of a paddling are heard. Paulette is very distressed by all the violence and yelling. Finally, the physical punishment is stopped by mother, who tells everyone that the police are here not about the crosses, but about Paulette.

Michel is furious that the police might take Paulette away. Mother says that they will just take the little girl to an orphanage with other little girls. So Michel starts to bargain with his parents. He will tell them where the crosses are and will apologize to everyone who was hurt by the theft of the crosses. He gets dad to promise to try to keep the girl if he will tell dad where the crosses are. Dad kind-of promises. Michel says the crosses are in the old mill.

But now the police come into the barn. Paulette doesn't want to go with the police. She wants to stay with Michel. She won't give out any information to the police, so mom and dad have to answer for her. The police have dad sign that the police picked up the child known as Paulette.

When dad starts writing his name, Michel says he can't do that because he promised him, his son, that he wouldn't send Paulette away. Dad says he never promised that and anyway he has no other choice.

So Michel screams that dad will never see those crosses again. He runs out of the barn and over to the old mill. There he starts destroying the entire animal cemetery. He now starts throwing the crosses into the river.

Michel hears and sees the police leave with Paulette. He is still mad at dad.

A nun speaks to Paulette about her situation. She puts a name tag around her neck. They call her Paulette Dolle. They tell her not to move from where she is and they will come back soon for her. A woman stands up and calls out the name Michel. Paulette stands up and starts calling out Michel, Michel, Michel, Michel. She goes to look but does not find him.  She goes running around trying to find Michel.



Spoiler Warning:  Good movie. I have seen lots of films dealing with the French Resistance, but this is the first one that has dealt with the actual German invasion of France. The opening scenes are of French people fleeing from the advancing German army. This creates a huge traffic jam for the refugees and makes them easier targets for German planes to bomb and strafe the people on the road.

A little girl named Paulette loses her cherished dog and her mother and father in a strafing incident on the road. She carries her dead dog with her and follows a stream that leads her to a local farm. An older boy named Michel finds her and almost immediately wants his family to adopt her.  The family takes the child into a strange farm atmosphere for a girl from Paris. She is especially repulsed by how filthy farm life is, compared to her nice apartment in Paris. But she does bond with the boy Michel. The two of them become inseparable.

Michel helps her adjust to the death of her parents. The little girl has no understanding of death, nor did her parents give her any religious instruction as a bulwark to meet such challenges as the loss of one's parents at such an early age.

So Paulette is really a duck out of water. But all this can be handled by the little girl, as long as she has her good friend Michel with her. She wants to stay with the farm family, but the problem is that legally Paulette is not the child of the farm family.

And here is just one of the terrible effects of war -- the effects of the loss of one's family and the consequences of being alone in the world. Without family the small girl is not in control of her own destiny and is uprooted several times and lands in places strange to her.

The acting by the two child actors was very good. And the little girl Paulette was so very, very cute. The other acting was good too. It is interesting following what happens to Paulette in a world where she is all alone.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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