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The Poetic Realism of Jean Renoir

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the world premiere of Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game in Paris. It is the movie I show most frequently in Intro to Film classes to illustrate the slippery yet vital French movement known as Poetic Realism.

Jean Renoir is the most famous and critically renowned of all the great French directors who have been lumped together under the difficult-to-define umbrella term of “Poetic Realism.” In contrast to silent French film movements like Impressionism and Surrealism (both of which can be considered avant-garde or non-narrative), Poetic Realism, which flowered in the early sound era, integrated poetic, non-narrative innovations into the conventions of narrative continuity filmmaking. The end result was a cycle of films that took some of the aesthetic concerns of those earlier movements and wedded them to traditional movie realism in a way that exhibits a socially conscious perspective while simultaneously remaining accessible to mainstream audiences. The Rules of the Game, released in 1939, is the most famous of all Poetic Realist films and is widely considered one of the greatest movies ever made. It also represented the end of the first phase of Jean Renoir’s career. It was banned by the French government shortly after its initial release (a ban maintained by the Nazis when their occupation of France began), causing Renoir to flee to America where he worked for the better part of a decade. Upon returning to Europe in the early fifties he would be a very different type of director and would make very different (though in many ways equally wonderful) types of films.

The Rules of the Game tells the story of a group of aristocrats and their servants who have gathered for a holiday weekend in the country at a mansion belonging to Marquis Robert de la Cheyniest (Marcel Dalio). This makes Renoir’s film the spiritual godfather of a certain strain of European art film of the 1960s, one that Pauline Kael derisively dubbed the “come dressed as the sick soul of Europe party,” a category including films as diverse as L’avventura, Last Year at Marienbad and La Dolce Vita. Like those later modernist films, The Rules of the Game has widely been interpreted as an attack on the bourgeoisie (one of the reasons it was banned to begin with), but it is truer to say that no one is spared in Renoir’s social critique; the working class characters are just as flawed as the masters they serve and in some cases more so (witness the scene where the servants gossip about Robert’s Jewish ancestry). It is also worth noting that Renoir extends sympathy to all of his characters as well. He refuses to valorize or demonize any of them; instead, he shows them in their full humanity and that, I suspect, is what some find unbearable.

These are the ways in which The Rules of the Game can be said to exemplify Poetic Realism:

– The blending of comedy and tragedy

At times the film’s comedy is surprisingly physical and slapstick in nature but it can also turn on a dime, unexpectedly shifting to tragedy and becoming deadly serious in tone. If we are to take Charlie Chaplin’s formulation that “comedy is life in long shot” at face value, it is worth noting that all of the violence in The Rules of the Game plays out in long shot, which indeed makes it seem farcical in nature. This is especially true of the scenes where Schumacher the cuckolded husband (Gaston Modot) is chasing Marceau the poacher (Julien Carette) throughout the mansion. But when Marceau accidentally shoots and kills Andre the aviator (Roland Toutain) in the film’s penultimate scene (mistakenly believing him to be yet another character!), Renoir pulls the rug out from under us; there is nothing funny about the real death resulting from Schumacher’s fickle behavior.

– The use of cinematic techniques to provide social commentary not always readily apparent in the dialogue

These are the poetic innovations to which I alluded in the opening paragraph. To give one prominent example, the most famous scene in the movie is a hunting expedition involving all of the principle characters. In this remarkable sequence, Renoir shows a fast-paced montage of birds and rabbits being killed in rapid succession and the dynamic cutting (presented in stark contrast to the way every other scene in the film is edited) suggests that Renoir is trying to draw a parallel between the slaughter of the animals and the behavior of the human characters towards one another. After the outbreak of World War II, this would make Renoir’s movie look positively prophetic. Although the upper class characters in the film are not bloodthirsty, their hypocrisy is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Nazi appeasement with which their real life counterparts would soon engage.

– The employment of long takes and long shots

The great French critic Andre Bazin was an early proponent of Jean Renoir; he championed the long take/long shot style evidenced by Renoir’s films of the 1930s, which he referred to as mise-en-scene aesthetics and which he explicitly contrasted with the rapid editing of Sergei Eisenstein and the directors of the Soviet Montage school. Bazin saw montage editing as being more conducive to propaganda filmmaking and long shots and long takes as giving viewers more freedom to pick and choose what they wanted to see within the frame. (Orson Welles and Gregg Toland would take this principle to an extreme with the deep-focus cinematography of Citizen Kane two years later.) An excellent example of a scene unfolding in both long shot and long take is when Robert and Andre are walking down a hallway in the foreground and talking about their “good friend” Octave (Renoir himself) who, unbeknownst to both men, is creeping around in the middle-ground behind them, preparing to steal away with Christine (the woman that all three men love). Finally, in the extreme background a servant snuffs out a candle at the end of the hallway as if to accentuate the point that Octave is not who Robert and Andre think he is. In a long shot like this, viewers are free to choose the characters on whom they’d like to focus – and thus “edit” the film for themselves.

Like Grand Illusion, Renoir’s other Poetic Realist masterpiece, the title of The Rules of the Game is simultaneously simple, evocative and ambiguous. I have personally always felt that it referred to the “rules” by which one must abide in order to survive in a ruthless world like the one depicted in the movie. Naturally, this involves lying, which nearly all of the film’s characters do. For instance, Christine (Nora Gregor), Robert’s wife, pretends to have known all along that her husband was cheating on her with Genevieve (Mila Parély) after spying them together during the hunt. This lie causes Genevieve to remain at the house for the weekend so that the facade of civility can perpetuate. But there is one character in the film who is incapable of lying; Andre makes a historic flight but is unable to conceal his disappointment on a live radio interview that Christine failed to greet him when his plane landed. Later, Andre seals his doom when he insists on telling Robert that he and Christine plan on running away together. Had they left in secret like Christine wanted, Andre never would have gotten killed. Renoir knew that to refuse to play by the rules of a strict social code was to risk being slaughtered like an animal in the hunt. That he could dramatize this not only without a trace of cynicism but also in a spirit of great generosity was one of the secrets of his genius.

The Rules of the Game was released in a splendid DVD edition by the Criterion Collection in 2004. A forthcoming Blu-ray by the same company has been rumored since last year.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

37 responses to “The Poetic Realism of Jean Renoir

  • Suzi

    I just wrote this article for the Turner Classic Movies’ Archive on Jean Gremillon’s LADY KILLER, with Jean Gabin. TCM is dedicating a day to Gabin’s films in August. They will be showing this film and likely some other examples of poetic realism. FYI.

  • michaelgloversmith

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve never seen LADY KILLER but Gabin is the man.

  • Top Ten Home Video Releases of 2011 « White City Cinema

    […] Fiction (Tarantino, Lionsgate Blu-ray) 25. The Rules of the Game (Renoir, Criterion Blu-ray) Essay here. 26. Senso (Visconti, Criterion Blu-ray) 27. Shock Corridor (Fuller, Criterion Blu-ray) Full review […]

  • david

    You forget to mention Renoir’s bear suit,haha!! What a lovely character,what a lovely man!!

    The blending of comedy and tragedy & The employment of long takes and long shots are also two great feature I admire very much in the film,how about the deep focus shot? Lots of people say it is before Citizen Kane.

  • Osmar

    Most foreign films I’ve watched suffer from a single issue: the dialogue and the scenery distract from each other. Rules of the game is different, the way Jean Renoir shot the film the scenery is more important than the dialogue. I prefer wonderfully choreographed long shots and long takes over montages as used by the early Soviet filmmakers. Renoir is a mad genius, every bit of this film looks wonderfully marvelous. All the characters are amazing. The comedy in this film is just outrageously funny and the drama is intense. All things considered this film is nothing short of a masterpiece.

  • Daniel Vietinghoff

    Renoir’s The Rules of the Game is a critical look at society. He exposes people’s flaws while making them seem human. He both criticizes and has sympathy for everyone. His innovative style told a story and subtly sent this message to the audience. His blend of tragedy and comedy mirrors real life. To do this, he utilized long takes lasting more than 20 seconds and long shots to give the viewer freedom to focus on what they want to see and understand. According to Renoir, “everyone has their reasons” or both you and your enemy act because of conflicting points of view. Because of this, some people choose to not play by the rules which results in the breakdown of civilized life.

  • Kevin Sulewski

    Out of all the films we have watched so far in class, this one was my least favorite.This does not mean that i disliked the film, but i did find my self a little confused and annoyed at times. I don’t know if it was just me but a lot of the characters looked a like. During the few scenes and montage sequences where all the characters were chasing each other through the estate, i had trouble following the story. I was still somehow intrigued in the film and wanted to continue watching it. When i wasn’t enjoying the shots, i was trying to decipher who was who and where was all the madness was going on exactly. I understand that Renoir was trying to further add to the “madness” and keep the viewers interested, but for someone who might not view the film again it agitates you a little not being able to tell what was going on (Maybe its just me though). When we had a class discussion about the film, it cleared up a lot of the confusion. This film definitely is one that should be viewed more then once. I seemed to had enjoyed it more after the discussion. So, if i do ever watch it again i could see myself enjoying it more and appreciating Renoir’s work.

  • Ben Pasquesi

    Jean Renoir’s use of poetic realism in The Rules of the Game gives this film the audience appeal needed while still creating a society filled with criticism. His ability to create all these characters and put them each under a microscope without making anyone a vilian amazed me. Throughout the entire film nearly every single character lies and cheats, yet I felt a sense of pity toward each one that involved love and with that tragedy. I also enjoyed how both the working class and the masters of the house seemed to have a sense of equality in their flaws. Neither class was portrayed as more deceitful but instead seemed to all struggle with the same issues. I also enjoyed the freedom Renoir gave me to observe what I wanted to within scenes with his use of long shots and takes. Lastly, his ability to switch from comedy to tragedy at any point amazed me. My favorite comedic scene was the dragged out chasing of Marceau by an angry Schumacher. I really enjoyed how bad of a shot Schumacher was and how it took place in the middle of everything. I sadly did not enjoy when it flipped to tragedy when my favorite pilot was shot like an innocent rabbit in the hunting scene.

  • Rob Chatterton

    Posted my response but it’s not showing up? 😦

    • Rob Chatterton

      oh okay so the long paragraph i wrote and tried posting didnt save but this did…

      • Rob Chatterton

        Alright lets try this again. Out of all the movies we watch I like this one the most. The movie has a wild energy that catches the viewer off guard. I was unsure of how to feel and react to certain scenes. It is a three stooges-esque movie. This movie projects poetic realism is when Schumaker is chasing Marceau around the house and shooting at this. This is supposed to be an issue but every other house guest thinks it’s part of the show. This is the comedic portion of the poetic realism and its also a long take and I like how the cameraman uses the camera to follow the chase throughout the house. The dramatic portion is when Schumaker actually shoots and kills Andre, and this is a scene I didn’t know how to react. He blends comedy and tragedy very well, like when Octave was trying to get out of the bear suit and find his wife, but nobody was helping him. I understand this is a “anti-montage” type of movie, but I find it hard to not see the part of the movie when they are killing all the animals as a montage. The fast paced action shots of different people doing slightly different things in slightly different places makes it appear to be a montage.

      • michaelgloversmith

        This is more like it, Rob. Very good analysis. You are correct that the rabbit-hunt scene is a montage – the only one in the film. 10/10

  • James Hrajnoha

    Watching this movie was very intriguing because I’ve personally never heard of Jean Renoir. I personally enjoyed this movie for its moment of odd comedy such as mean Andre attempts suicide by car crash, with Octave in the passenger seat. Which was not in poor taste but done just right and was very fun. The movie was made during the Poetic Realism movement in France. The various classes in this film did not seem better or worse then the other. Both classes had their moments of despair but also moments of joy. Even some wearing a bear costume and doing a musical, Which was very funny but turning into a showdown between the Poacher and the Groundskeeper which people believed was part of the show. Which could even go so far as say all classes believed it to be a musical number. This was then followed by the death of Andre by the hands (well gun) of the Groundskeeper. This is the ability of switching between comedy and tragedy, which is a trait of Poetic Realism.

  • Dharmin Patel

    The film Rules of the Game showed a great example of social critique which you talked a little bit about. I thought it was real interesting to see how social classes had no difference between all the characters. Where even the servants acted just like the masters. As you see through out the film where Robert, Andre, and Octave at one-point end up trying to steal Christine’s love away from one another. Then you see Marceau and Schumacher trying to steal the love of Lisette. Even though Schumacher knew something was going on with Marceau and Lisette he tried to stop what ever was going between them by trying to kill Marceau.
    Next I thought it was interesting to compare the rabbit hunting scene to the characteristic traits of the actors in the movie. As you see in the scene of hunting rabbits the animals were killed quickly without the thought that they’re killing a living thing. To me the comparison to the humans was to show how little the actors in the film cared about each other. While they’re going behind each others backs and not being upfront about what their intentions were with the women they secretly wanted to run away with.
    In the scene where Schumacher is chasing Marceau you see a long shot and long take. Where Marceau is running from Schumacher and hiding behind people from the party so he wouldn’t get shot. In this scene Renoir gives you the chance to choose what you want to look at. From all the guests to where you see Marceau hiding, you can choose what you want to see.
    After this film was over you can see all the characteristics of poetic realism. Through all the lying and cheating you see how all the characters in the film are all very similar even though they’re in different social classes. In the end the title of this film really hits the spot. Where Andre was the only honest man at this party. He admits to being in love with Christine to her husband. Then in the end Andre was the one who gets killed because he didn’t play by the “rules of the game”.

  • Fabio Campo

    The sense of humor and ridicule brought by these character’s actions illustrate the foolishness in us humans. What I especially appreciate that Renoir did in this film was show sympathy in these characters, mentioned in the second paragraph. When Marceau and Lisette try to sneak their way past Schumacher to fool around with each other, the audience does not get a sense who is the antagonist or protagonist in their situation. We might have felt Schumacher was wrong for trying to shoot Marceau, but we know he is trying to protect his girl. We then sympathize both he and Marceau in the aftermath. There is no clear right or wrong, just people with different motives. This gray area, opposing hollywood’s trying to make the audience root for one particular mindset, is what makes these characters interesting yet relatable.
    After watching the film, I could not connect the film’s title to the film. Reading this blog made me feel satisfied knowing that it is a metaphor for the hunting of rabbits. This is a game in which there are rules, that if not followed, have consequences, unfortunate for the rabbits and Andre.

  • Evan Sheaffer

    Jean Renoir did a fine job of making myself understand what true Poetic Realism is in the movie, The Rules of the Game. A poem is not the same as just saying what’s on your mind or how you feel. A poem captivates on emotions and at times exaggerates them. In The Rules of the Game, the truth (realism) of all the characters in the movie, who they were and what they represented was captivated on and pushed to the extreme. Jean Renoir doesn’t just want you to know that all of these characters are liars, he shoves that fact in your face! In a lot of way, watching this movie almost felt like watching one of those “reality” shows. You know, the characters in those shows and everything they do is extreme and overly dramatic. The interesting thing about how Renoir used Poetic Realism, is that he used it to criticize people. And not just the rich people (which is obvious), even the working class in this movie are morally incorrect, even more so than the rich people they serve at times. In the hilarious scene where Schumacher is trying to kill Marceau with a gun in a crowded room of people, the wealthy barely react to it like they don’t recognize the danger and this is Renoir’s critique. They think it’s just part of the act from moments earlier in the movie. These people are so far removed from reality, in all the lies and the lifestyle that they can’t even recognize real danger. Yet, the movie takes a sudden turn from this comedic act to pure tragedy. No better example of poetic realism in my opinion than when Renoir has the only person who tells the truth in this movie die off at the end. He’s doing it again, he’s shoving reality in your face! Hey, but it’s Andre’s fault for not following the rules (of the game), right? Renoir made the movie feel realistic in many ways, most notably his use of far and long shots. Yet while harder to notice as there’s more to focus on in these shots, this is where he focused most on detail. Octave sneaking in the back, or the servant snuffing out the light behind Andre and Robert as they speak of Octave. The shot of the balcony that’s angled to look like a stage. It’s poetic, yet realistic and this is the true combination that allows Renoir to explain to us what he wishes to tell us, without actually saying it. (Could go on but I feel like this is already too much).

  • Robert Straszynski

    Let me just start off my response by saying that this article is written outstandingly! His word choice was simply amazing.. because writing a review without throwing fancy words around would be obviously pointless, indubitably! Back on track. “The Rules of the Game” directed by “Jean Renoir” was a confusing motion picture. I feel as if I needed to watch the movie twice to fully understand it (And have chosen to watch it a second time just because of this reason). There are a lot of sub-plots in this movie, making it seem more ingenious the second time through. This Movie is simply magical, It just blew my mind!

    I have learned to appreciate poetic realism depicted in this french motion picture thriller. The movie had MANY hard to watch, tragic moments, such as the battle of the lone aviator trying to claim Christine’s love..even though it clearly belonged to somebody else (She’s married to Robert, and is sought after by Octave). If this movie has taught me one thing.. it’s that marriage doesn’t truly matter in France. During the movie the characters don’t even seem to care that they are married and just continue on with their new romantic flings seamlessly. It also felt weird to watch the characters come together to exhibit some kind of mutual, humanistic bonding experience, even after a tragic event between the two said characters. This bonding experience between characters felt great, especially Marceau and Schumacher JUST after the scene where Schumacher tried to kill Marceau. It made me feel relaxed knowing that they settled their differences and have seemed to forgive each other based on the circumstances (The Lost their jobs in the previous scene).

    Jean’s use of long shots in the actual mansion shots made it feel just that much more deep. There was always something to look at, being it in the foreground or background. A great example of this was when Schumacher was being comforted by his wife just before the shooting chase scene. The Long shot was dragged out, making it feel more important. Just when you think the shot is about to end, Marceau appears in the background, trying to get away from the scene. The main action was the interaction between husband and wife, but my eyes wandered. Marceau getting caught also happened in the exact same shot!

    In conclusion I would like to thank you for showing me this cinematic masterpiece. I’ll probably re-watch it with some friends later on so they too can experience the same appreciation as I have for this Poetic Realism gem.

  • Stacy Strunck

    I was interested in the foreshadowing of World War II in the film. It is clear that Europe is going into World War II and the upper class is denying it. They have come to the country estate to play and pretend that the Nazis don’t exist. It seems to them that life is all a game. The film begins with the aviator Andre Jurieu who has completed a heroic trans-Atlantic solo flight. Charles Lindbergh, who is an actual hero all over the world, had actually completed this flight ten years earlier. However, Lindbergh was also known to be a Nazi sympathizer. Renoir was against the Nazis. It seems as though Andre is a parody of Lindbergh. Another character who does not play by the rules is the Jewish aristocrat, Robert. The ending shot of Robert’s face clearly shows what is coming. At this time the persecution and the murders of the Jews were beginning. When the guests kill the rabbits and the birds, it seems to be a foreshadowing of the murder at the end. Does this possibly foreshadow the mass killing of the Jews? The film was banned by the occupying Nazis who clearly understand the underlying realistic story.

  • Jessica Stinnett

    In the movie, The Rules of the Game, by Jean Renior it expressed Poetic Realism in many different scenes. This movie was about the different characters falling in love for one another. Not only was that a main aspect of the movie but to the characters, it was almost a game to keep it a secret and not get caught by their husband or wife. And if they broke the “rules” and told the truth you simply lost the game. A perfect example of this is when Christine was in the green house with Octave and she was planning on leaving with Andre, but in the blink of in eye she had changed her mind and loved Octave. This had sent Octave into a frantic but happy mood that led him back to the house to get her jacket, when all of a sudden Robert and Andre asked him where Christine was. It was at this very moment when Octave knew he wouldn’t be good enough to support Christine’s wealthy life style. This is where Octave tells the truth and “loses” the game or better yet loses Christine to another man. Another person that lost the game and told the truth was Andre. After Andre told the truth about his feelings for Christine, he took off to the greenhouse, only to get killed by Schumacher and Marceau.

    Before Andre was shot and killed, there was a particular scene that stood out to me because the movie wet from being funny, and upbeat to something so serious as death. This was an emotional roller coaster because one moment you’re rooting for Marceau to get away from Schumacher, or hoping that Schumacher would get his hands on the man who was sneaking around with his wife. It was funny to see the two of them running around the house screaming and shooting a gun, and all the guests there thought it was part of the show that was going on. At the time, Schumacher wanted to kill Marceau for many reasons, but as soon as both of them got fired, they dropped their issues with each other. This is when they do a complete attitude change, and go from being mad at each other to turning their anger towards Lisette. With it being dark out ,and have poor lighting they became confused and shot Andre. At this point the movie goes from something funny to something so serious.

    Overall this movie was a great representation of Poetic Realism, because it does a fine job of blending comedy with tragedy. Even though this film was an emotional roller coaster, it had scenes that contrasted the happiness with sadness.

  • Greg Siemienczuk

    Rules of the Game by Jean Renoir did a fine job in filming a love and tragedy movie that mixes poetic realism all around the film. The film expressed love among all characters and it wasn’t to my surprise that it did being a French film. While the film was about romance the whole way throughout, there was a lot of tragedy that stood out for me.

    Knowing that this was a film coming up to World War II, I could not agree more about the hunting of the rabbits having a relationship to the Germans coming and sweeping out all the Jewish people. It wasn’t just regular hunting like I would see today, they scared out all the rabbits walking in a long line not missing any areas in the forest, kinda like the Nazis did with going through the neighborhoods. Once they got out the poachers were ready and were firing away. Jean Renoir put a lot of thought into showing this symbolism of the tragedy of time that they were in.

    Throughout this whole film, I really thought that Andre was going to get Stephanie as his love. He was the only honest man and the only one that was following the rules of the game. At the end of the movie where he gets shot I couldn’t believe that the hero is the one dead in this film. But I guess that’s what Jean Renoir had to do to make this film a true love and tragedy.

  • Jaqueline Izurieta

    I agreed with the scene of all the people from the mansion hunting the animals were ironically hunting each other as well. Jean Renoir shoots long shoots and close shots of the animals so vivid and at the same time with the people. Rotating the shots back and forth. Even at the very end of the film when Andre was killed by Schumaker. Andre dropped dead like an animal in the hunt. The whole film everyone was acting like “animals”. Jean Renoir does a unique comparison.

  • Andres Isasi

    I agree with you in the fact that The Rules of the Game is a great example of poetic realism by following and, in some ways, creating the rules of poetic realism. It’s grim, it’s funny, it’s depressing, but also refreshing. The parallels of the hunting scene and Andre’s accidental murder are pretty obvious if you’re looking for them and the long shots that are also occasionally long takes are downright fun to watch, like looking at one of those room-sized paintings one can observe in a museum. Someone can look at a scene 5 times and see something else every time.

    The film is simple and simple to digest and simple to enjoy. Simplicity isn’t bad. It’s a staple of poetic realism. Even if someone dozed off for 30 minutes, they could easily infer what was happening in the plot. In the world of lies and deceit that is the Marquis’s world, the characters’ intentions are obvious thanks to Renoir’s film-making style. It’s hard to describe how it works, but it works and that’s what I think matters in the end.

    The film and its poetic realism make these characters several shades of grey. As you said, no one is really a good person, except for Andre, but the viewer can’t help but sympathize and at the very least empathize with these characters. The realism part of this film kicks in and it shows that these people in the film are, in fact, people. They’re fickle. They make mistakes. They’re dumb. They’re occasionally smart. Their allegiances and intentions can change on a whim. People forgive and people hold grudges. Like Schumacher and Marceau the poacher. First, Schumacher is trying to kill Marceau, then they’re sitting together smoking. Then, Marceau agrees to help kill what is believes to be Mrs. Schumacher’s lover. All of these characteristics power the film’s charismatic cast.

    So in conclusion, yeah, I agree with the general consensus Rules of the Game is a fantastic film and an even better example of poetic realism.

  • Ryan Gradishar

    The satire that is the Rules of the Game my Jean Renoir is a great example of Poetic realism being used to its full potential by paralleling both tragedy and comedy seemingly at the same time. A perfect example of this is when Schumacher is chasing the poacher through the house trying to kill him, and yet everyone thinks that they are watching a show and they are laughing about Schumacher trying to legitimately murder another guest. As a viewer during that scene I found it difficult how to feel, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh at the chase scene or to be scared for the poacher’s life. All in all I really enjoyed this film even though I found it difficult to watch at some points due to the fact I have never seen a movie like it before.

  • Aleks Djuric

    I enjoyed that this move does not focus on just one character, but instead gives every character the same amount of screen time. Whether or not the character is a servant or an aristocrat , they are treated equally in that sense. We also see that they both have flaws, this movie can be seen as one that is an attack on the bourgeoisie, but we also see that servants act in the same way. When Robert sees Christine and Andre together, he confronts them and when Schumacher finds Marceau and Lisette together he attacks Marceau. We see both the servants and aristocrats acting similarly, following the rules of the game.
    It is hard to call this movie either a comedy or a tragedy, this movie combines both the elements of comedy and tragedy, and that partially what I think makes it so unique. As it was stated above, we see comedy being played out on the screen, then all the sudden Renoir surprises the audience with tragedy like the death of Andre. There is nothing funny about Andre’s death, he was the only honest one of them all and he is the one that ends up dying. And Andre’s death in a way show the rules of the game, in this particular game lying is one of the rules and Andre being as honest as he is, broke that rule and ended up paying the price. If Andre would have lied and sneaked around like the other characters he would still be alive.
    The way Jean Renoir captured the truth of all the characters really speaks to the poetic realism of the film. Renoir showed the extent that people would go to in order to get what they want, throwing out their morals while doing so. I agree with what you said that rules of the game are the rules one has to abide by to survive in the ruthless world that is in this film. And that is what I think makes this film one of poetic realism.

  • George Vlastos

    In poetic realism characters tend to act, or react in a way that might be very unrealistic in real life. When Schumacher was chasing Marceau around the house with his gun and shooting the area around him the house guests acted as if it was a play. Also when Schumacher shoots and kills Andre accidentally everyone reacts very casually towards the situation which is very unrealistic behavior towards a murder.
    Poetic realism is also very focused on the study of different characters. As we saw in the movie we could automatically tell what type role everyone was playing. The title of the movie clearly says the rules of the game. The only people that can participate are the ones that frequently tell lies to each other. Andre was the only one telling the truth to everyone and reacting based on his emotions (e.g. crashing into a tree with his car trying to kill himself). Normally if he was playing by the rules then he would just lie about his real emotions. Andre is not only not playing by the rules of the game, but he is also not playing by the rules of poetic realism. If the characters in the movie react in unrealistic ways and Andre is going around telling everyone the truth about his love for Genevieve then Andre is popping out like a sore thumb.
    Finally poetic realism takes a few elements of expressionism. Many characters in the movie are sort of living their own nightmare. The characters lie to each other, fight with each other, cheat on each other, try to kill each other, and all of this happens within a few days. Even though all of these things were going on, in the end nothing really mattered. They all just go and live their normal lives as if none of it ever happened.

  • Stefan Djuric

    Out of all the films we watched i found this one to be the most honest in terms of portraying how people actually behaved in real life. In a sense it takes you behind the scenes in the life of the rich. It gives a realistic portrayal of how similar to regular average income citizens. The servants play an interesting role in that they are in some ways treated as equals. This isn’t something i expected but adds credibility to the film in my opinion. Renoir is giving us the facts straight as opposed to putting on a basic show in which the characters are all predictable Hollywood types.
    He beautify and appropriately blends tragedy and comedy. In the first half of the film we saw the bulk of the comedy but towards the end the mood became more serious. In a way we see that you can have your fun but if not done in moderation it comes at a cost. And if you don’t follow suit in how everyone else approaches “life”, then you will get chewed up and spit out, or in Andres case killed. For he didn’t follow the code or rules of the game.
    The love triangles are vast and very complex. Mainly because the attractions aren’t only among the elite but mixed in with those who serve them. I feel that this commentary is saying that deep inside we are all the same, the heart wants what it wants and social class cant stop it, especially behind closed doors.

  • Allen Canilao

    In Rules of the Game, Andre is the only male character that was honest throughout the whole movie, but he was not the only character who did not play the game right. Jackie was a small character that got rejected by Andre. She was attracted to him the second he walked in the mansion. By the end of the movie, she was the only person who was mourning of his death. Everybody else was quiet and saying it was an “accident”. The long tracking shot of Schumacher chasing after Marceau throughout the house was shot well. While they were running through rooms, Andre and Robert were fighting in one of them. When the party was over, Andre and Robert made amends, as well as Schumacher and Marceau. The long shots had a lot of movement in the background making the audience pay attention to other things than the character. The hunting scene relating to the foreshadow of WWII events is shocking, but it can be related to many events ahead as well like McCarthyism. It make sense that it can relate with the Nazi’s action because of the time period. I thought Octave was a nice guy, but even he was as bad as the rest of them and he left the mansion without mourning of Andre’s death. There is only one person to blame for all of this and that is Christine’s fault. She made Andre have feelings for her, married Robbert, and even told Octave about her feelings all those years. The rules of the game is to make the smart choice. Those who stayed are going to live, but those who runaway die just like the rabbits.

  • Lewis Secor

    I thought the rules of the game is a perfect example of poetic realism because it uses long shots and takes to make the viewer really pay attention to the smaller things through out the shot. A perfect example is when Marqui is talking about how Octave is a great friend, but Octave is sneaking around in the background, trying to runaway with Marqui’s wife. I find that pretty funny in a way because you can never really trust anybody, and I think this movie does a great job on showing how basically every social class, gender, age, race, act the same when it comes to playing by the rules of the game. This movie is also the opposite of montage because Renoir puts exactly what he wanted to show in the movie and it is up to the viewer to make sense of it. Renoir also uses a blend of comedy and tragedy in the movie as well. There is a scene where someone can be running around foolishly, then the next scene, someone’s wife or husband is having an affair with another character. This is really a confusing part to me, but also I like it because you are hit with two kind of emotions that are really far apart from each other. All in all, perfectly executed movie.

  • Justin Valencia

    The Rules of the Game is a poetic realism film that follows a mixed group of rich and working class people. I thought the film was interesting because on would normally assume and think that the rich and the servants would be drastically different from each other. However, Renoir’s film shows that whether you are rich or poor, we are all very alike, and far from perfect. He depicts this by following the many relationships among the characters. He also uses parallels and different shooting techniques throughout the movie to get his message across. The way the characters were running around chasing and wanting to kill each other was a serious matter in the context of the movie, but came across as comedic to the viewers of the movie, as well as the guests at the mansion. This part of the movie perfectly exemplified poetic realism, as it was simultaneously serious and funny. This particular scene also mimics the hunt scene, as the way the characters are scrambling and running from one another is reminiscent of how the animals were running around earlier in the movie. I think Renoir did this on purpose to show how similar we all are. Whether you’re rich, poor, or working class, you are still human, and you still behave like how humans do; like animals. I like that you brought up the scene when Robert and Andre were talking about Octave, as it is a great example of poetic realism. I agree that this long shot/long take allowed us viewers to choose what to focus on and mentally edit the film in our head. I also find this scene funny and ironic, because Andre and Robert are speaking so highly of Octave, just as Octave is planning to leave with the woman they were just fighting over. This irony adds to the poetic realism of the film. Overall, I think that Renoir mastered poetic realism to depict our human nature in this film, and I can definitely see why it is one of the most acclaimed movies of all time.

  • Melissa Magdaleno

    After watching this film, “Rules of the game” has become one of my favorites. Jean Renoir does a beautiful job of demonstrating Poetic Realism in this film. He mixes comedy and tragedy throughout the whole film. Sometimes the audience is laughing at what”s happening on the screen but in the back of their minds they know it’s a serious matter. One of the best scenes that shows this is when the two men are chasing each other causing madness in the house. Not until Andre gets shot and killed do we the audience take it as a serious matter. But also the audience in the film realizes that the chase was actually real and it wasn’t just part of the play. Another example is when Marcel and Andre are fighting, it’s a serious scene when they want to kill each other. But then they start talking about how Octave is such a great friend to Christine. When his getting ready to leave with her, it makes you kinda laugh at them. The famous long takes is also what makes poetic realism what it is. The long shot of Marcel telling his guests that they’ll say Andre’s death was an accident. From the view and angle that this is shot in, it kind of felt as if he was conducting them on what to do and say. Lastly, by using cinematic techniques when the rabbits where being killed since this movie was done around World War II, it seemed as it the hunters were the Nazi’s and the rabbits were the jewish people. The hunters were trying to clean the rabbits out just how the Nazi’s were doing to the Jewish. Overall, this was a great film and I know understand how it is one of the best Poetic Realism films made.

  • Andrew Moran

    Renoir seems, very much to me anyhow, the Shakespeare of cinema. One of the things I thought was so cool about his style was how much it reminded me of one of the bard’s tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth. Having been in a Shakespeare club throughout high-school and reading almost every one of his plays, I’m by no means an expert on the man’s work but do know a thing or two. Shakespeare would regularly mix tragedy into overall tragic plays. For example, in Romeo and Juliet, the comedy of the opening scenes, portraying a fight between the Capulet and Montague servants is juxtaposed with the later fighting scenes between Romeo, Mercutio, and Tybalt. This Juxtaposition is very similar to Renoir’s choice of contrasting the scenes in which Schumacher attempts to gun down Marceau for messing around with Lisette, and the scene that follows in which Andre, the pilot, is gunned down by Schumacher mistaking him for Octave trying to run away with Lisette(who is actually Christine in Lisette’s cloak). That ironic twist is also reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Andre both die because of a misunderstanding. All in all, Renoir is a great film-maker and it would not surprise me in the slightest if his style or at the very least this specific movie(rules of the game) was influenced by Shakespeare.

  • Elahe Mehri

    This interview contain really useful information that I was looking for. It explains poetic realism which it created in France. Poetry use when it is hard to express thoughts and feeling directly but in the realistic is opposite. This movement influence from impressionism and surrealism. Poetic realism movie is about doomed love that combine comedy and tragedy and focus on middle classes or worker classes. Also, you reference some French famous directors that use poetic realism style in their movies. For instance, Marcel Carne, Jeans Vigo, and Jean Renoir. Renoir directed The Rules of the Game film which use this movement. Renoir make this film when the Europe heading to the world war II. He used the long shot and the long take which I think was excellent because it gives viewers time to observe the shot and being relax. Soviet Montage is exactly opposite because it makes the viewers anxious to be prepare for next shot. Even though the poetic realism style is not use in modern movie, some Americans and French directors have influenced by this movement. In many film today family and friend get to gather to celebrate or spend time together, also in war movies use blend of comedy and tragedy which all influence by The Rule of the Game.

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