The film opens during WWI, showing two fliers (Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay) on a reconnaissance flight. They are shot down by a German ace (Erich von Stroheim) but survive the crash. Von Stroheim cavalierly invites them to have lunch with him before ground troops arrive to cart the French officers off to a POW camp. Both men are placed in barracks where a French officer (Marcel Dalio), a Jew, befriends them, along with several British officers who have also been taken prisoner.
A classic Renoir study of men in prison coddled by another gentleman officer, The Grand Illusion is a fascinating portrait of military customs, courtesies, and attitudes that evaporated with the coming of WWII.
Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim
Jean Renoir, Charles Spaak
Marthe Huguet, Marguerite Renoir
Albert Pinkovitch, Frank Rollmer
German, Russian, French, English