Had I been around during the initial release of Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, I would have tried my best at commending such a film for exposing a side to the bourgeois that might still be around within this day and age. To think a film would have been so ahead of its time for the era in which it had scared its audiences because of what they were witnessing to the point they were repulsed – the whole history of The Rules of the Game only allows me to strengthen what it is that I love most about watching it. But where else can oneself go when talking about what else Renoir managed to achieve in The Rules of the Game? I don’t know, but all I know is that it was a perfect film to come out during its time and to this day it is still that perfect film.
From the first moments of The Rules of the Game, Renoir perfectly establishes the sorts of people whom we will be watching for the film’s own running time. The idea that Jean Renoir presents is that these people whom we are watching are those whom are inside of a higher class before the start of World War II, depicting such citizens as amoral and reckless, leading to a collapse of sanity – one which eventually would foresee the defeat of France during the battle. Renoir shows such people living lives as adulterers and carefree players, hinting at how these are not people going by “the rules of the game.”
All throughout, Renoir keeps his film continuously funny by showing how they take pride inside of their ever-growing recklessness and lack of care for those whom are outside of their circle. It is within Renoir’s scathing critiques of their underlying stupidity where The Rules of the Game has managed to garner the success which it has earned and in turn, that is where it is made so startling of a picture because there’s a new light to which it still opens even today. With the current state of politics across the globe, no matter the country, it would already seem fitting that a film like The Rules of the Game comes by in order to expose what the lower class would imagine out of those whom are up higher than them, and in turn the brilliance shines throughout.
But there’s a whole lot to which The Rules of the Game has managed to foresee that in turn makes it a film that was so ahead of its time, and it is not simply within the adulterous content which it depicts. France was occupied by Germany during WWII, and the film was also banned by the Nazi party, perhaps what The Rules of the Game could have depicted was how the Nazi party imagined themselves to be when they had such high power to the misery of those who are under. Renoir’s audacity to criticize the higher class is something he can only be applauded for, as the more exaggeratedly hateful mannerisms to which his characters in here take upon adds more to the social critique which he presents. Yet soon, this destruction of their own sanity would bring destruction upon themselves – making the film’s own study of character as powerful as it is, with Renoir’s own rounding of each one from their own personalities.
It is also lying within Renoir’s technical achievements amidst his own direction that make The Rules of the Game the standout that it is, for the cinematography employed is still distinctive even to this day, together with the set pieces which are put into play. Yet with the mansion setting in which The Rules of the Game takes place, it also goes ahead to heighten a sense of power which such luxury can bring to any ordinary being who still has a number of responsibilities to cover. The power it enables any person would also lead to them caring only for themselves and others within that group, leading the entire group to their own psychological collapse. The absurd nature to their actions makes everything all the more entertaining of a watch, but to watch their power soon fall over themselves is where something more arises.
How exactly can a film like The Rules of the Game be replicated in this day and age? What Jean Renoir has presented is still one of the most relevant social criticisms that can come to mind within our time, one that still remains innovative for all of time to come. Renoir has cleverly deconstructed what power can bring onto those who still have a number of responsibilities to cover, for they soon forget about those whom are outside of the group and care only about themselves. It’s a film that is already incredibly funny within its own absurdity but at the same time, one whose commentary still runs true today. Something so ahead of its time can only frighten audiences enough back in the day when they were hit with such a harsh truth, one which only Jean Renoir could have exposed to them within the period. Such people only forgot about “the rules of the game” and in turn, they just break them for their own gain.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Janus Films.
Directed by Jean Renoir
Screenplay by Jean Renoir, Carl Koch
Produced by Claude Renoir, Jean Jay
Starring Nora Gregor, Paulette Dubost, Marcel Dalio, Roland Toutain, Jean Renoir
Release Year: 1939
Running Time: 110 minutes