The Sorrow and the Pity

Synopsis: From 1940 to 1944, France's Vichy government collaborated with Nazi Germany. Marcel Ophüls mixes archival footage with 1969 interviews of a German officer and of collaborators and resistance fighters from Clermont-Ferrand. They comment on the nature, details and reasons for the collaboration, from anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and fear of Bolsheviks, to simple caution. Part one, "The Collapse," includes an extended interview with Pierre Mendès-France, jailed for anti-Vichy action and later France's Prime Minister. At the heart of part two, "The Choice," is an interview with Christian de la Mazière, one of 7,000 French youth to fight on the eastern front wearing German uniforms.
Director(s): Marcel Ophüls
Production: Cinema 5 Distributing
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
251 min

Wedding in Germany

Fallingbostel, May 1969

Dear children, even though your stomachs

are full, you can stand a little speech.

Thirty years ago,

when your mother and I married,

the sky was blue, but dark clouds

were already looming on the horizon:

the clouds of World War Two.

AIl of us gathered here today

hope with all our hearts

that you be spared such suffering.

Clermont-Ferrand: 134,000 residents

in the Puy-de-Dme region.

The capital of uvergne is 240 miles

from Paris and 37 miles from Vichy,

which was the capital of France

from 1940 to 1944.

Gergovie, a nearby Gallic town, used to be

the fortified town of Vercingtorix,

conquered by Julius Caesar.

father tells his children

about a more recent defeat.

In 1939, I was 27 years old.

I was the father of a large family,

so I hadn't been sent to the front.

The front was the Maginot Line.

I'd been sent to Montferrand,

near Clermont,

and my wife's dairywoman, Mrs. Michel,

had criticized me for not going to the front.

So after the rout,

I told her that there was no point

in me going to the front,

since the front came to me.

Was there anything other than courage

in the Resistance?

Of course. But the two emotions

I experienced the most frequently

were sorrow and pity.

The Colonel was a French action man,

the Major was a moderate.

The Captain was all for the diocese,

the Lieutenant couldn't stand the church.


Chronicle of a French city

under the Occupation

AIl these men made excellent Frenchmen.

Excellent soldiers who march in time.

Thinking that the Republic

is still the best thing going.

Now most of these strapping lads

don't share the same political views.

But they all agree,

no matter what their view...

Part 1:

Two brothers, both local farmers,

live a few miles from Clermont.

They have many memories

of German occupation.

Is that your village?

That's where I was born.

I was born near that church there,

and later I lived

on the farm facing the school.

You can't help but love your country.

Did you think about it in Buchenwald?

Not much.

-You didn't?


-What did you think about?

-Surviving. That's it.

That's mainly what I thought about.

But I'm talking about me,

about how I saw things.

I'm not talking about those who...

There were some people who cried.

When I saw them cry,

I knew that they would never make it.

No way.

You had to think about yourself first.

and think about others after.

This politician also has

reasons to remember.

For me, it was an experience

that I will never forget.

This experience may have had

a few secondary effects,

but I don't believe

it has affected my attitude or behavior.

Has it not made you feel bitter

towards certain French people?

No, I wouldn't say that.

It showed me that there are

certain tendencies and habits,

which, when they are fired,

fed, or stimulated,

crop up like weeds,

and so we must always be on the defense.

We have to protect our youth

from this type of propaganda.

We have to talk to them about it

more than we talked about it

a generation or two ago.

The manager of the Philips company

also has reasons to remember.

As I was saying, his friends would ask me

why I joined the Resistance.

Why? Because going into a restaurant

and seeing Germans at a table,

and being told there's only four steaks

left for the Germans and none for us

was a little frustrating,

seeing as that steak

came from our cows in uvergne.

So it was our right to eat it

before giving it away.

That's my first reason.

My second reason was that the Germans

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