Les Misérables, La Rafle and Elle s’appelait Sarah
in Reframing remembrance
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After discussing the depiction of French collaboration in Louis Malle’s Lacombe Lucien and Marcel Ophuls’ Le Chagrin et la pitié, chapter 2 focuses on the representation of the archetypal figures and consequences of French collaboration during the Second World War, taking Les Misérables (Claude Lelouch), La Rafle (Roselyne Bosch) and Elle s’appelait Sarah (Gilles Paquet-Brenner) as its case studies. Lelouch’s adaptation of Les Misérables spans generations and timelines in a French society divided by class and wartime loyalties and experiences. By creating archetypal characters, the film universalises the events of the Occupation in order to highlight its ongoing relevance. It also allows for the representation of many different French identities of the time, including those of collaborators at various levels. Roselyne Bosch’s La Rafle is a direct depiction of the roundup of Vél’ d’Hiv, during which thousands of Jewish French citizens were arrested and deported in July 1942, taking particular aim at French authorities and power structures who executed the operation. Elle s’appelait Sarah, through its central characters’ personal engagement with their own history and that of those around them, questions the idea of culpability and how a contemporary society can confront and ultimately come to terms with its past in order to move forward and create a better future.

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Reframing remembrance

Contemporary French cinema and the Second World War


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