La Règle du jeu [The Rules of the Game] By Harley, Jeremy
La Règle du jeu [The Rules of the Game] is a 1939 humanist film by Jean Renoir satirizing the French aristocracy. Premiered at the brink of World War II, the film’s subject matter angered audiences, despite its gentle tone and a lack of any direct reference to politics or world events, and was subsequently banned with cuts ordered. The inspiration for what Renoir called a “more classical, more poetic” film (Durgnat 1974: 192) came to the director while working on his naturalist film La Bête humaine [The human Beast] (1938); however, his characteristic realism remained intact in La Règle du jeu. Renoir took an improvisatory approach to the film, beginning with a script inspired by French writers, including de Musset and Marivaux, and then revising it constantly according to the performances of his actors. The film is known for its pioneering use of deep focus, which had become technically difficult after the start of the sound era, and influenced the modernist directors of the Nouvelle vague [New Wave]. François Truffaut, in particular, called it “the greatest film in the history of cinema” (De Baecque and Toubiana 1996: 35). While the original negatives of La Règle du jeu were destroyed during the war, the film was later reconstructed in 1956, and has continued to influence generations of filmmakers.