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Au revoir, les enfants

Au revoir les enfants
File:Goodbye, children film.jpg
Directed by Louis Malle
Produced by Louis Malle
Written by Louis Malle
Starring Gaspard Manesse
Raphael Fejtö
Philippe Morier-Genoud
Francine Racette
Music by Schubert
Cinematography Renato Berta
Editing by Emmanuelle Castro
Distributed by Orion Classics (USA)
Release date(s) 29 August 1987 (premiere at Venice Film Festival, Italy)
7 October 1987 (France)
December 1987 (US)
Running time 104 minutes
Country France
West Germany
Language French
Box office $4,542,825

Au revoir les enfants (French pronunciation: ​[o ʁə.vwaʁ le zɑ̃.fɑ̃], meaning "Goodbye, children") is an autobiographical 1987 film written, produced and directed by Louis Malle.[1] The screenplay was published by Gallimard in the same year. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.


During the winter of 1943-44, Julien Quentin, a student at a Carmelite boarding school in occupied France, is returning to school from vacation. He acts tough to the students at the school, but he is actually a pampered mother's boy who still wets his bed. Saddened to be returning to the tedium of boarding school, Julien's classes seem uneventful until Père Jean, the headmaster, introduces three new pupils. One of them, Jean Bonnet, is the same age as Julien. Like the other students, Julien at first despises Bonnet, a socially awkward boy with a talent for arithmetic and playing the piano.

One night, Julien wakes up and discovers that Bonnet is wearing a kippah and is praying in Hebrew. After digging through his new friend's locker, Julien learns the truth. His new friend's name is not Bonnet, but Jean Kippelstein. Père Jean, a compassionate, sacrificing priest of the old school, had agreed to grant a secret asylum to hunted Jews. After a game of treasure hunt, however, Julien and Jean bond and a close friendship develops between them.

When Julien's mother visits on Parents' Day, Julien asks his mother if Bonnet, whose parents could not come, could accompany them to lunch at a gourmet restaurant. As they sit around the table, the talk turns to Julien's father, a factory owner. When Julien's brother asks if he is still for Marshal Pétain, Madame Quentin responds, "No one is anymore." However, the Milice arrive and attempt to expel a Jewish diner. When Julien's brother calls them, "Collabos," the Milice commander is enraged and tells Madam Quentin, "We serve France, madam. He insulted us." However, when a Wehrmacht officer coldly orders them to leave, the Milice officers grudgingly obey. Julien's mother comments that the Jewish diner appears to be a very distinguished gentleman. She insists that she has nothing against Jews, but would not object if the socialist politician Léon Blum were hanged.

Shortly thereafter, Joseph, the school's assistant cook, is exposed for selling the school's food supplies on the black market. He implicates several students as accomplices, including Julien and his brother, François. Although Père Jean is visibly distressed by the injustice, he fires Joseph but does not expel the students for fear of offending their wealthy and influential parents.

On a cold morning in January 1944, the Gestapo raid the school. As his classroom is being searched, Julien unintentionally gives away Bonnet by looking in his direction. As the other two Jewish boys are hunted down, Julien encounters the person who denounced them, Joseph the kitchen hand. Trying to justify his betrayal in the face of Julien's mute disbelief, Joseph tells him, "Don't act so pious. There's a war on, kid."

As the students are lined up in the school courtyard, a Gestapo officer denounces the illegal nature of Père Jean's actions. He further accuses all French people of being weak and undisciplined. Meanwhile, Père Jean and the three Jewish students are led away by the officers. Heartbroken, the children call out, "Au revoir, mon père!" Père Jean responds, "Au revoir, les enfants! À bientôt!"

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, died at Auschwitz. Père Jean was imprisoned with other anti-Nazi priests at Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, where he died shortly after being liberated.


  • Gaspard Manesse as Julien Quentin
  • Raphaël Fejtö as Jean Kippelstein, alias "Jean Bonnet"
  • Francine Racette as Mme Quentin (Julien's mother)
  • Stanislas Carré de Malberg as François Quentin (Julien's older brother)
  • Philippe Morier-Genoud as Father Jean/Père Jean
  • François Berléand as Father Michel/Père Michel
  • François Négret as Joseph (kitchen helper)
  • Peter Fitz as Muller
  • Pascal Rivet as Boulanger
  • Benoît Henriet as Ciron
  • Richard Leboeuf as Sagard
  • Xavier Legrand as Babinot
  • Arnaud Henriet as Negus

Actual events

The film is based on events in the childhood of the director, Louis Malle, who at age 11 was attending a Roman Catholic 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. The school's headmaster, Père Jacques, was arrested for harboring them and sent to the concentration camp at Mauthausen. He died shortly after the camp was liberated by the U.S. Army, having refused to leave until the last French prisoner was repatriated. Forty years later Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, granted Père Jacques the title of Righteous Among the Nations.


The movie was extremely well received by critics and has a 96% positive rating at the critics-aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.[2] [3][4][5][6]

The film was also a box office success having 3,488,460 admissions in France and grossing $4,542,825 in North America.[7]

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.


External links

France portal
  • Internet Movie Database
  • AllRovi
  • Google Books
  • Criterion Collection essay by Philip Kemp
Preceded by
César Award for Best Film
Succeeded by
Camille Claudel

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