Born in Bordeaux, trained as architect. Met Jacques Tati 1934, documentaries on North Africa and Arabia 1936; after fall of France demobilised from army and begins working in film again; gains assistance of resistance group; "Résistance-Fer" in making film about railways and resitance which becomes "The Battle of the Rails" (1946). One of the members of the French New Wave who emerged after WW2. Regarded as exemplar of French "quality" films. Films: La Grande Pastorale (1943); The Battle of the Rails (1945); Gervais (1956); Is Paris Burning? (1966).


Meaning of the Title

The pseudo-religious rituals adopted by the two children to mourn the dead is denounced by adults as a "forbidden game".


  • the 5 year old Paulette - Brigitte Fossey the 11 year old Michel Dolle - Georges Poujouly
  • Père Dolle - Lucien Herbert
  • Mère Dolle - Suzanne Courtal
  • Georges Dolle - Jacques Marin
  • Berthe Dolle - Laurence Badie
  • Père Gouard - Andre Wasley
  • Francis Gouard - Amédée
  • Jeanne Gouard - Denise Perronne
  • Novel and Screenplay by François Boyer

Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film 1952.

Set 1940 during the collapse of France under the Nazi onslaught. Parisians are fleeing the capital to escape the Nazi Stukas which are straffing columns of refugees. The 5 year old Paulette watches as her parents are gunned down and then flees to find refuge with a country family. Paulette strikes up a friendship with the farmers' young son Michel with whom she reenacts repeatedly the ritual of burying and mourning the dead in a cemetry they create for themselves in an abandoned barn. Although they adopt many of the Catholic rituals they observe their elders carrying out, the two young children obviously do not understand the intricacies of what they are doing, thus providing the director with an opportunity to comment upon the private side of the death caused by war as well as the tradition-bound behaviour of provincial French and Christian Europe.


  1. The extraordinary acting of the two main child actors.
  2. The commentary on the need to mourn the dead, especially in wartime.
  3. The implied criticism of the role of the Church in the events leading up to and during WW2. The Church's inability to cope with the demands of total war in the 20thC. It seems naive children have a better understanding than the institutions of organised religion.
  4. The impact of war on children and their inevitable loss of innocence. Poujouly was discovered in a camp for deprived children. The final scene when Fossey is returned to Paris to an institution for the hundreds of other child victims of war.
  5. The sense of hope that the human spirit will prevail in spite of the events of the mid-20thC.
  6. The divided opinion of critics about the importance of this film. The importance to English-speaking audiences of this film a an example of the post-war French New Wave cinema. One critic's observation that this film is to WW2 what Renoir's Great Illusion is to WW1. Another's view that it is an example of "superficial fimmmaking" which is now no better than a "museum piece".
  7. The contrast between the beautiful French countryside and the events depicted in the film