History of Modern France The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 10
23 February 2022
French Cinema under the Nazi Occupation: 1940-1944
with Sylvie Koneski
Few periods of French cinema history were as vital, controversial and troubling as the German occupation years, 1940-1944. Some claim that it was a dark period due to censorship; others say that it became a dynamic age that ultimately transformed French filmmaking. Without doubt those years produced some truly captivating movies.
In 1940, the French government prohibited Jews from directing, producing or participating in the theater or cinema in France. Important figures of the industry left the country to work freely elsewhere: 47 professional filmmakers ceased all activity: the directors Julien Duvivier, René Clair and Jean Renoir fled to Hollywood.
Among the most representative filmmakers during the Occupation are Marcel L'Herbier, Marcel Carné, Jean Grémillon, and Robert Bresson. A number of classics such Jean Cocteau’s l’Eternel retour (Eternal Return) and Carné’s Les visiteurs du soir, 1943 (The Devil’s Envoys) were made in the Free Zone. The two most significant films of the Occupation period are undoubtedly Henri-Georges Clouzot's Le corbeau (The Raven, 1943) and Carné's Les enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise 1945) from a script by Jacques Prévert. The last was widely interpreted as a film calling for resistance to German oppression.