In the early 1930s, there were a long string of anti-war films. After the carnage and senseless loss of WWI, people were now ready to face this and work towards a lasting peace. While Hollywood made several such films (THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT AND BROKEN LULLABY), other nations also made similar films with similar messages (such as the French film J'ACCUSE or the German WESTFRONT 1918). Sadly, however, WWII would undo all this wonderful sentiment and it was a failed attempt to work past the stupidity of war.
BROKEN LULLABY begins with a very emotional scene where a French soldier (Paul) kills a German in the trenches. Despite doing his duty as a soldier, the man was severely effected by this death and it haunts him. Although he goes to confession after the war, he doesn't feel absolved for the death--even when the priest told him he has not sinned--after all, it was war. In an odd twist, Paul decides to go to Germany to seek absolution from the family of the man he killed! But, before he can explain why he is there, the family assumes he was a friend of their dead son (who'd lived in Paris before the war). Now, he's at a loss--should he tell these sweet people or keep it to himself and work out his absolution on his own?
There's an awful lot to like about this film. In addition to an excellent and literate script, the film has two other things working in its favor--the amazing way the film ended and the deft direction by Ernst Lubitsch. As for the ending, it was very simple but very, very touching--leaving the viewer impressed with its almost lyrical nature. It truly is a work of art. While Lubitsch is well known for his comedies and musicals, here he is just as adept with relationships. Plus, being German by birth, he had an easy time getting in touch with the spirit of a German town.
The only negative, and it's a small one, is that all the actors are clearly Americans. With no trace of German or French accents, it does seem a tad strange. Still, this was a common practice in Hollywood during this era and it didn't seriously detract from the film.
Overall, while not the very best of the anti-war films of the 30s, it is among the best and is significantly different from the rest. It's well worth seeing and you can't help but admire it even 77 years later.
A young French soldier in World War I is overcome with guilt when he kills a German soldier who, like himself, is a musically gifted conscript, each having attended the same musical conservatory in France. The fact that the incident occurred in war does not assuage his guilt. He travels to Germany to meet the man's family. —Steve Owen
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
December 14, 2021 at 08:23 PM