What ought one to watch if one wants to know about Nuremberg? Which films best capture the essence of the tribunal? We continue with our series of recommendations from famed film aficionado Lydia Maslova, who has collected a unique list to accompany the “Nuremberg: Casus Pacis” project.
‘The Last Train’ (1980)
Director: François Truffaut
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu
This historical drama by François Truffaut reminds us that in occupied France it was important for Parisian residents not to miss the last train on the Métro – the city’s underground transport system. There was an 11pm curfew which is noted in the film’s opening credits.
The film also explains why in 1942 not only were the French prisons overcrowded but the theatres were too - tickets had to be booked well in advance and audience members would have a night out simply to keep warm because their flats were freezing.
‘Le Dernier Métro’ is about a theatre run by Marion Steiner (played by Catherine Deneuve), whose Jewish husband Lucas (Heinz Bennent), is believed to have fled to South Africa but is in fact living in the theatre’s basement from which he is able to take part incognito in rehearsals.
‘Le Dernier Métro’ was made shortly before Truffaut’s death in 1984 and offers a comprehensive picture of the life French artists led during the occupation, when the police received 1,500 denunciations daily, “My boss is Jewish, my neighbour is a Jew, my brother-in-law is a Jew”.
The film deals with the canard that the Germans valued culture and their anti-semitism only applied to merchants and speculators. In practice, anyone suspected of having even a little bit of Jewish blood was totally expelled from the cultural community. As one of the Gestapo inspectors says: “I say the French theatre must drive its Jews out... from the rafters to the prompter’s box! For a Jewish prompter at the “Menilmontant” will worm his way to the high command of the Opera! We must oust the Jew from the stage and the wings and keep him out! No Jew should be allowed in a key position in theatre for his sordid practices are bound to corrupt it!”
Despite the serious matter, ‘Le Dernier Métro’ does have some marvellous light-hearted moments. Particularly delightful is when the male lead actor Bernard Granger (played by Gérard Depardieu) discovers that the wardrobe mistress Arlette Guillaume (Andréa Ferréol) isn’t really interested in men.