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Les Honneurs / Reviews /
in 1961
Cannes Film Festival
Alain Resnais
Robert Parrish
Selection official french
San Sebastian Festival

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Little by little, with increasing hindsight, the films inspired by the last war are changing. "Arrêtez les tambours" showed the honour of war through the cowardice and hatred that can be born of fear. But the narrative was still confined to a single point of view. In "Les Honneurs de la guerre", Jean Dewever's first full-length feature film (his excellent short film about the housing crisis is still fresh in our minds), both the Germans and the French are observed with a sympathetic eye. Irrespective of the uniform, Dewever looks for the man.

The screenplay by Dewever and Tacchella is the story of a day during the Liberation as experienced by German soldiers and French civilians. There are, to some extent, two films: one German, the other French, which are cut into slices then interwoven.

       "They never meet," says Jean Dewever. The only communicate through go-betweens. Yet whatever happens to the French has repercussions on the Germans, and vice-versa. It isn't a war film at all. The German soldiers have had their fill and want to surrender. The neighbouring village - where there are no Germans - is in the midst of celebrating. The village that is still occupied is more low key. Rumour has it that the Germans have to surrender at five p.m., but people are still worried. As are the Germans, who've only one thing on their minds: getting out. But they are afraid of being killed by unseen maquisards, who may not even exist. They dare not surrender either, as there is no army in uniform and they are afraid of being lynched by civilians who are unaware of military law.

The misunderstanding between the two worlds, the civilian and the military, is practically inevitable.

All the characters are likeable.

       The film is based on anecdotes. Each of the characters has his own destiny, and the day in question gives him something or takes something away from him.

Is it a film that expounds a philosophical thesis?

      No. It's a film that merely raises a problem of our times: the problem of war and peace. It's the story of a misunderstanding. There are no traitors. All the characters are likeable. Each of them has his or her reasons and is portrayed as someone who thinks the same way would see them. Everybody shows goodwill, and it doesn't work out. I have discussed this issue with many officers and tried to understand their points of view. There is a reason for every act, however stupid, and this reason is not as stupid.

Where did you shoot the film?

      On location, in the Deux-Sèvres area, at La Mothe Saint-Héray, near Niort, in the Marais Poitevin; and on the outskirts of Avignon. But the places aren't important. We don't actually know where the film is set. What I wanted to recreate was the atmosphere of the open-air dance halls along the banks of the Marne, which you find in the films of the French school made between 1932 and 1935. As you'd be hard pressed to find this along the Marne at the moment, I had to shoot elsewhere.

Who are your actors?

      Thirteen German actors from Munich. They act in German and most of them can't speak a word of French. I've always sworn that I would never tell actors how to deliver their lines. But the problem in this instance didn't even arise, as I can't speak German. I had to direct them from within, playing on their sensitivity. I used the same method with the French actors. You can really sense whether or not an actor is using the right emphasis, whether it be in Portuguese, German or French.

    It's a film without stars: it's an actor's film. I cast actors I knew and liked. For many of them I tailored the part to fit them. The same went for the Germans; once I got to know them, I altered their characters to suit their personalities. The shoot was an incredible adventure. It took longer than planned, but all the actors stood by me, and even refused to come back to Paris for two days for another job. It's thanks to them that I was able to finish it.

Claude-Marie Tremois
Télérama, March 26, 1961

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Your most recent discovery?
"Jean Dewever, the author of an admirable film, 'Les Honneurs de la Guerre', which hasn't been released yet. It's admirable in its sober and truthful treatment of a major topic, which, we came to realise, had never been dealt with so unassumingly before."

Claude Mauriac

'Les Honneurs de la Guerre' brought to us a director who combines extremely humane qualities with those of a really talented director."

Robert Chazal

'Les Honneurs de la Guerre" was the real winner of this 14th festival."



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"A warm, passionate film. Never before have the mechanics of war and peace been so clearly presented on film."

Alain Resnais


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Dear Mr. Dewever,

I was fortunate enough to see your film 'Les Honneurs de la Guerre' yesterday.
I am a film director myself so I appreciate the wonderful work you have done on this film. It is one of the most moving, honest pictures about the war I have ever seen.


Robert Parrish

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Die vor die Hunde gehen
Em französischer Antikriegsfilm kommit mit Prãdikat
Der Ausschmitt
Allemagne Fevrier 1962

Krieg ohne Helden
Der Tagesspiegel
Allemagne Février 1962

Die Spielregeln des Krieges
Prädikat besonders wertvoll
Die vor die hinde gehn

The scenes of the Libération fête by the townspeople are excellently done and the quieter and lighter strokes of character drawing are best... Dewever reveals himself as a promising artist of cinematic pastels.

T. Quin Curtiss
N.Y. Herald Tribune

Filme de Guerra, Contra a Guerra
Diario des Noticias

Filme em duas tonalidaes para duas faces da guerra
Folha de Sao Paulo.

Tegenslag bij eerste grote film
Herdsch Dagblad

Un double malentendu
La gazette de Lausanne

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