book review: Lacombe, Lucien (the screenplay)

lacombe lucien

Lacombe Lucien: the screenplay by Louis Malle and Patrick Modiano. Other Press| May 2016| 160 pages | $14.95| ISBN: 978-159051-765-9

RATING: ****/5*

I adore books and film but I don’t often read screenplays. Lacombe Lucien is a film about the evils at play among French Nazi collaborators during WWII. It’s an early work by Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano and director/screenwriter Louis Malle. Apparently the film was quite controversial at its release as it depicted the dark underside of war, showing some French nationals doing despicable things to other French nationals. It’s harsh and raw.

Lucien Lacombe, a poor boy in Nazi occupied France, becomes involved with Fascist collaborators who join the Gestapo and inform on their fellow countrymen in horrific ways. There’s torture, murder, imprisonment. Lucien wanted to join the Resistance but his teacher rejected him. He told him he was too young. He added: “And anyway, this is serious business. It’s no lark, Lucien, like going out and poaching . . . . It’s like being in the army, you know. . . .” So Lucien joins up with the bad guys. He carried out small tasks for the Gestapo. This makes the young man feel powerful and indomitable. He’s rather content with the brusque lifestyle and its payouts until he falls for a Jewish girl named France. Will Lucien betray her and her family?

There are some callous remarks about Jewish people. Jean-Bernard: “There are some Jewish girls who are incredibly beautiful. . . . Compared to them, other women look like mares. . . . (Turning to Lucien) That’s right, old boy: mares. . . . I had a Jewish fiancée once, some time back. . . . Incredibly stacked, and incredibly wealthy. . . .” Marie: “Dirty Jew! . . . They all have the syph! . . . Do you hear that? . . . She’s going to give you a case of syph!” Then France herself, likely echoing the sentiment of those persecuted at that time: “Lucien. . . I’m so tired. I can’t stand it anymore. . . .I’m so tired of being a Jew. . . .”

Reading the screenplay definitely makes me want to watch the film. Seeing the film will add vividness. I need to see these characters interacting. The arch in which Lucien and France fall in love seems incredibly quick although I cannot judge without seeing the actors chemistry.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Other Press.

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