Alliance Francaise de KOTTE presents French cine-classic ‘Les Enfants du Paradis’”.


The Cine Club of the Alliance Francaise de KOTTE in partnership with the National Film Corporation presents Marcel Carne’s 1945 cine-classic “Les Enfants du Paradis”

Director Marcel Carné on the set of Les enfants du paradis, 1945
Director Marcel Carné on the set of Les Enfants du Paradis, 1945

‘Les Enfants du Paradis’, released as ‘Children of Paradise’ in North America was made during the German occupation of France during World War II.

‘Children of Paradise’ is set in the theatrical world of Paris during the July Monarchy (1830–48) and centres on the area around the Funambules Theatre, situated on the Boulevard du Temple (derogatively referred to as the “Boulevard du Crime”).

Maria Casares and Jean-Louis Barrault in Les enfants du paradis directed by Marcel Carné
Maria Casares and Jean-Louis Barrault in Les enfants du Paradis

The film revolves around a beautiful and charismatic courtesan, Garance (Arletty). Four men – the mime Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault), the actor Frédérick Lemaître (Pierre Brasseur), the thief Pierre François Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), and the aristocrat Édouard de Montray (Louis Salou) – are in love with Garance, and their intrigues drive the story forward.

Garance is briefly intrigued/involved with them all, but leaves them when they attempt to force her to love on their terms, rather than her own. The mime Baptiste is the one who suffers the most in pursuit of the unattainable Garance.

Children of Paradise
Children of Paradise

A three-hour film in two parts, it was described in the original American trailer as the French answer to ‘Gone With the Wind’ (1939), an opinion shared by the critic David Shipman.

 The leading nouvelle vague director François Truffaut once said: “I would give up all my films to have directed Children of Paradise”. The film was voted “Best Film Ever” in a poll of 600 French critics and professionals in 1995.

As noted by one critic, “in French, ‘paradis’ is the colloquial name for the gallery or second balcony in a theatre, where common people sat and viewed a play, responding to it honestly and boisterously. The actors played to these gallery gods, hoping to win their favour, the actor himself thus being elevated to an Olympian status.”

Jean Louis Barrault in Les Enfants du Paradis directed by Marcel Carné, 1945
Jean Louis Barrault in Les Enfants du Paradis

The film contains many shots of the audience hanging over the edge of these balconies (which are similarly known as “the gods” in the British theatre), and screenwriter Jacques Prévert stated that the title “refers to the actors […] and the audiences too, the good-natured, working-class audience.”

 Free of charge and opened to the public, it will be screened at 6.00 pm on Wednesday 20th April at the National Film Corporation Hall at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07.