Dragonknight’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film #29 of Project 30
”The awful thing about life is this : Everybody has their reasons.”
Jean Renoir's intricate look at the morally bankrupt French society of 30s is full of delicate details, it is not just a movie about the spiritual and ethical downfall of the French aristocrats or the dirty and disordered nature of the relationship between various social classes, the most amazing thing about The Rules of the Game is that Renoir successfully manages to explain something that many films, essays and books have failed to explain: What paved the way for Adolf Hitler to start a decade long madness which took millions of lives and ruined a whole continent? For Renoir it was the hypocrisy, selfishness, moral instability and narrow-mindedness of the people who were considering themselves the elites of societies across Europe that let Nazis to build their war machine and surprise the intellectually superficial individuals whose only goal in life was to deceive other people’s wives.
In retrospective The Rules of the Game is surely among the most profound and farsighted films ever made, it gives a spot-on analysis of the roots of WWII even before the war began, of course the political conflicts were escalating back in 1939 before Nazi army invaded Poland but Renoir’s ability of creating a connection between what he believed to be the failure of moral and ethical values in French society and the ongoing and mounting political tensions in Europe is praiseworthy and exemplary. So in a broader scale The Rules of the Game is not just a cinematic masterpiece, it is a piece of history warning all of us that abandoning the values that made us a functional community at first place may lead to some dire and uncontrollable consequences.
Like The Grand Illusion one of the main themes of the film is the lack of a healthy and productive relationship between social classes, Renoir portrays a society where it is impossible for individuals from different classes to understand each other, they see each other as enemies, they use every opportunity to cheat on each other and the only thing that goes on between them is a certain type of hatred and mistrust. But the problems exist even within a single class as well, Renoir gives us a society where everyone – male and female - is busy cheating on his/her own partner, everyone’s thinking about their own instantaneous desires and therefore all of them are doing everything possible - without caring for other people’s feelings or their freedom – to gain more pleasure. And when a group of people with the same parasitic mentality and attitude gather around in one isolated place the big farce beings, a foolish, senseless, barbaric and primitive show which is constantly swinging between comedy and tragedy.
The Rules of the Game looks incredibly fresh as if it was made yesterday and about the world we’re living in and not the doomed Europe of 30s. There are some shocking and hair-raising similarities between what Renoir portrays in his film and what is happening in our time. We’re not on the verge of another madness, are we?