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The Viewer's Evaluation: Louis Malle's Lacombe Lucien

The Viewer's Evaluation: Louis Malle's Lacombe Lucien

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This essay explores how the viewer of Louis Malle's film Lacombe Lucien is compelled to make their own evaluation of the behaviour of the protagonist, Lucien.
Keywords: collaboration; Vichy France; film direction; war; morality; audience response.
This essay explores how the viewer of Louis Malle's film Lacombe Lucien is compelled to make their own evaluation of the behaviour of the protagonist, Lucien.
Keywords: collaboration; Vichy France; film direction; war; morality; audience response.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
2007FR1201 Introduction to French StudiesAssessment Essay 1.
 Lacombe Lucien.
Q. ‘In
 Lacombe Lucien,
director Louis Malle does not seek to justify, or even to explain Lucien’s behaviour. Instead, theviewer is compelled to make his/her own evaluations in relationto the guilt (or lack thereof) of Lucien.’Do you agree? Analyse a scene or scenes from the film in detailin order to demonstrate your response to this statement.Student: Susannah NorrisStudent Number: 106018513Degree Course: Arts I
 
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<< J’ai essayé de comprendre, non pas de justifier ou même d’expliquer maissimplement de regarder comment ca ce passait, comment un garçon commeLucien Lacombe pouvait finalement se trouver si confortable tout en faisant cequ’il faisait, devenant objectivement le salaud sartrien, le personnage abject vude l’exterieur, l’ordure, quoi. >>-Louis Malle
In
 Lacombe Lucien
, director Louis Malle manipulates the medium of film in order toforce us to reconsider our preconceptions. The narrative content and cinematic styleof the film provide evidence both for the prosecution and defence of Lucien: theyencourage us to question our assumptions, to ask ourselves why it is that we cannotseem to judge Lucien by usual moral standards. The narrative invites us to examinethe entire situation, and then to judge for ourselves. In the course of this essay, I willattempt to demonstrate that the film forces us to ask ourselves questions which in turnlead us to form our own conclusions about Lucien’s accountability.One may argue that Malle’s quite disinterested portrayal of Lucien isthe main element which prompts us to assess his guilt for ourselves: the camera is castin the role of detached observer rather than ally, enemy or judge. Malle’s direction of an opening sequence in which Lucien cycles through the wild, untamed countrysidesubtly communicates to our subconscious that there will be no development in thisfilm, that we must judge for ourselves: the tracking shot shows Lucien moving(symbolically) from right to left rather than the (usual) other way around. His traitsare presented for our inspection, and Malle deliberately provides us with contradictoryevidence in order to generate interesting ambiguity. This is particularly evident in theopening scenes of the film when we witness Lucien’s ugly satisfaction at hissuccessful surreptitious, arbitrary killing of a little songbird with a slingshot. We areleft unsure of whether to laugh or be appalled; yet minutes later he is shown stroking alifeless horse, apparently moved by its death.3

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