New generations
Un secret, Belle et Sébastien and Les Héritiers
in Reframing remembrance
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Acting as symbols of hope, children feature heavily in historical war films. This is also true of French cinema’s representation of the Second World War. Chapter 5 discusses the allegorical role of children in older films such as Jeux interdits, Le Vieil Homme et l’enfant and Au revoir les enfants. It then examines three French films – Un secret (Claude Miller), Belle et Sébastien (Nicolas Vanier) and Les Héritiers (Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar) which propose that new generations confront the complicated idea of commemoration by discussing nuanced ideas of identity, innocence, memory and pedagogy. A closer look at Vanier’s Belle et Sébastien allows us to interrogate the concepts of nostalgia and innocence in relation to this period and how it is being retold. The pedagogical aim and scope of Les Héritiers is discussed in relation to its message that contemporary awareness of the past can bring about social cohesion in the present. Un secret also engages with the theme of memory and lost innocence within a family unit. Complementing the trend of films made since 1995, it acknowledges the chronological distance between its contemporary central character and the history that still haunts him and his family by organising its narrative structure into several timelines, each affected by the others.

Reframing remembrance

Contemporary French cinema and the Second World War

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