One of the stupidest decisions one could make in France in the summer of 1944 was to join the Nazis. That’s exactly what the main character of Louis Malle’s Oscar-nominated film, 17-year-old Lucien Lacombe from the French countryside, will do. He lives in occupied France and we see him in the opening scene washing the floors in the hospital. A bird is humming outside, the young man takes out his slingshot, kills the bird and continues to clean the floor as if nothing had happened. Just like the life of a bird, he seems completely uninterested in what is happening around him. Admittedly, Lucien is not too thrilled with the fact that he has to scrub hospital floors, and practically everyone around him is either in the resistance movement or collaborating with the Germans and carrying weapons. And he kills rabbits so precisely and cold-bloodedly.
However, before joining the Gestapo, Lucien will try to join the local resistance movement, but will be rejected because he is too young, and when the movement does not need it, it seems that working for the German secret police is also a good choice. Now he too can carry a weapon, he has money, and he doesn’t even think about the moral questionability of what he does. It’s as if he doesn’t fully understand that he has become a traitor, a collaborator, and when he feels that he has power and that he is actually the master of life and death, he will start to behave as people in his position often do. He will immediately snitch on the teacher who did not want to accept him into the resistance movement, and his life will become quite complicated when, as a collaborator of the Gestapo, he just moves into the house where a Jewish tailor, his old mother and his young daughter are currently living.
And young Lucien will fall in love with the tailor’s daughter, not even understanding that he is now the one causing her family to suffer, and to make the situation crazier, a girl called France will also fall in love with him. Everything here from the beginning to the end seems completely absurd, insane, and Lucien is somehow difficult to judge because we understand that he is actually a limited, modest young man who can’t see beyond his nose. The famous French filmmaker Louis Malle shot a striking and complex war drama inspired by real events and real people in which, like Marcel Ophus in the famous documentary “Sorrow and Pity”, he explores the role of average, ordinary French people during the German occupation.
It is a great character study of a young man who, partly out of selfishness, partly out of complete disinterest in the world around him, approaches the occupiers. And that is primarily because it is easier for him, and how limited he is is best shown by the fact that he is completely unaware of the fact that the German war machine is falling apart and that it is already quite certain that the Nazis will lose the war. The story of the young actor who played Lucien, Pierre Blaise, who was only 18 years old when Malle hired him for this role, is interesting and tragic.
He had no previous acting experience, and among a thousand candidates, Malle chose this 18-year-old woodcutter who really brought authenticity and believability as a completely disinterested, completely morally ambivalent young man unaware of the situation around him. After “Lacombe, Lucien” Blaise became extremely sought after and made three more films, but when he was barely 20 years old, he died in a traffic accident, running off the road with the car he bought with the money from the films, and took two friend.