Au revoir, les enfants
(French for Goodbye, Children
) is a 1987
film written, produced and directed by Louis Malle
. The screenplay
was published by Gallimard
in the same year.
During the winter of 1943-44, Julien Quentin, the son of a very wealthy family from northern France, is boarding at the Sainte-Croix College (a junior high school/high school of sorts). He returns from Christmas
break saddened to be returning to the tediousness of boarding school. His classes seem uneventful until Père Jean, the head master, accepts three new pupils. One of them, Jean Bonnet, is the same age and grade as Julien. Julien is intrigued by Bonnet who is a mysterious boy ostracised by the rest of the class. After a while, they bond and a very close friendship grows between them. One night Julien wakes up and discovers that Bonnet is wearing a kippah
and is praying in the Hebrew language
. Julien begins to understand the truth. His new friend is really Jewish and his name is not Bonnet, but Kippelstein. Father Jean has agreed, just like a large number of other Catholic institutions during the Holocaust
, to grant a secret asylum to persecuted Jews.
As the Allies make advances, the viewer begins to wonder whether Bonnet will survive the war. But on a cold morning in January 1944, the Gestapo arrives at the school, prompted by a denunciation from the school's former kitchen hand, Joseph. When the Gestapo officer visits his classroom, Julien unintentionally gives away Bonnet by looking in his direction. As a Gestapo officer denounces the illegal nature of the priest's actions, Father Jean and the three Jewish children are led away by the officers as the children call out, "au revoir, mon père", and to which Father Jean responds, "au revoir, les enfants, à bientôt". Joseph, a cynical Judas-figure, has sold Bonnet for a pack of cigarettes.
In a voiceover epilogue, an older Julien reveals that the passage of forty years still has not dimmed his memory of that horrible day. The children, he states, were all murdered at Auschwitz. Father Jean was imprisoned with other Anti-Nazi priests at Mauthausen, where he also died.
The film is based on events in the childhood of the director, Louis Malle
, who at age 11, was attending a Carmelite
boarding school near Fontainebleau
. One day, he witnessed a Gestapo
raid in which three Jewish students and a Jewish teacher were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. All four were gassed on arrival. The school's headmaster, Lucien Bunel - Père Jacques de Jesus
, was arrested for harboring them and sent to the concentration camp
at Mauthausen. He died shortly after the camp was liberated by the American Army, having refused to leave until the last French prisoner was repatriated. Forty years later, Yad Vashem
granted the title Righteous Among the Nations
to Pere Jacques.
Awards and nominations
The film won the Golden Lion
award at the 1987 Venice Film Festival
. At the 1988 César Awards
, it won in seven categories, including Best Director
, Best Film
and Best Writing
It was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay at the 60th Academy Awards. It was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1988 Golden Globe Awards.