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Film / Forbidden Games

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Forbidden Games (Jeux Interdits in French) is a 1952 French film directed by René Clément.

The film is set in the summer of 1940, as Those Wacky Nazis are overrunning France. Paulette (Brigitte Fossey) is a six-year-old girl who is fleeing Paris with her parents. A German bomber strafes the refugee-choked countryside road, killing both of Paulette's parents as well as her pet dog. Paulette, carrying her dead dog, wanders to the farm of the Dollé family. Michel Dollé (Georges Poujouly), the youngest son who is a few years older than Paulette, convinces his family to take her in. Michel and Paulette bury the dog in an abandoned mill, and decorate the grave with a cross. Paulette doesn't want her dog to be lonely, so Michel finds other small animals—bugs, mice, and the like—to go in their improvised animal cemetery. Michel wants to make the little cemetery beautiful for Paulette, so he starts stealing crosses from the church and the local people cemetery. This presents a problem, and eventually gets Michel in a lot of trouble.


Forbidden Games met a mixed reception in France, where some people did not care for the unflattering portrait of the French peasantry, but it was a smash hit overseas. It won an honorary Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

This work exhibits the following tropes:

  • Black Comedy: The scene where the Dollé and Gouard patriarchs fight each other in an open grave, after M. Dollé accuses M. Gouard of stealing the crosses, surely qualifies.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Michel's older brother Georges is kicked by a horse. There are no doctors available, as they've all been called to the war, so no one treats his injury. He coughs some blood from the mouth right before he dies.
  • City Mouse: Paulette comes from Paris and she has to live in a farm in the country. The farmers notice how clean she is and how good she smells and they say that she will not get used to the country life.
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  • Comforting Comforter: Michel tucks in little Paulette after helping her overcome her fear of the dark.
  • Confessional: Michel confesses to the priest that he stole crosses from the hearse. Immediately after doing this, he sees the altar cross, and tries to steal it. But he makes a big noise doing so, causing the priest to interrupt another confession while he rushes out to investigate.
  • Cranky Neighbor: The Gouards constantly quarrel with their neighbors, the Dollés.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Michel is sent to bed without supper; but he ordered to come downstairs and say his prayers, which he does while muttering curses under his breath.
  • Downer Ending: Michel's father breaks his promise and gives Paulette to the Red Cross. In return, a heartbroken Michel throws the crosses into the stream. The film ends with little Paulette in a Red Cross refugee center, bound for an orphanage, sobbing for Michel and for her mother.
  • Down on the Farm: The quiet, small Dollé farm.
  • During the War: The Fall of France is going on in the background, but aside from the opening scene that gets the plot rolling, World War II doesn't play much of a role.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When Michel throws the crosses in the stream (see Downer Ending above), he suddenly comes across Paulette's necklace. Rather than dispose of it in the same manner, he gives it to the resident owl, telling him to keep it for a hundred years.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: During a church service, the priest is facing away from the congregation, as was usual at the time. When Michel's father bursts into the church and demands Michel comes to him, the priest looks behind him to see what is going on, with a very angry expression.
  • The Film of the Book: The film is based on a 1947 novel by François Boyer, The Secret Game (French: Les Jeux inconnus).
  • Grave Robbing: Sort of, as Michel steals the crosses from the real cemetery to decorate the little animal cemetery he made for Paulette. He even steals his own brother's cross, enraging his father when the theft is discovered.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Quite a tragic example in the person of poor little Paulette.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Not played for laughs, when an enraged Papa Dollé kicks his son in the butt while demanding to know where the stolen crosses are.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Poor Paulette.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The plot is triggered by the deaths of Paulette's mother and father (and dog).
  • Sneakers of Sneaking: Michel takes off his shoes just before he tries to steal the altar cross, as the priest is in the nearby confessional.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Berthe Dollé and Francis Gouard. Their fathers hate each other, so they cannot accept their relationship.
  • Stock Footage: Used for shots of the German planes that fly overhead.