TitleThe Legacy of Babel: Language in Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion
Uniform TitleThe New Orleans Review
NameTriggs, Jeffery A. (author),
World War, 1914-1918,
Grand illusion (Motion picture),
Language and languages,
Renoir, Jean, 1894-1979
DescriptionIt has become fairly commonplace to assert that film, like music, transcends the nationality of its audience.1 Stanley Kauffmann has argued that film “is the only art involving language that can be enjoyed in a language of which one is ignorant.” This depends, of course, on the role language plays in a particular film, the extent to which it functions as an integral part of a film’s meaning, and the way it functions with the film’s other constituents. In some films a foreign language provides a real barrier to full appreciation, while in other films the language may play a relatively insignificant role (as in opera) and do little to hinder the viewer’s appreciation beyond focusing his attention on other, perhaps more important, elements. In polyglot films the issue of language is seemingly most transparent. We are exposed to languages as we encounter them in life. Awash in such a Babel, we are frustrated not by an artistic barrier but by the conditions of life itself.
In fact, the polyglot text is a conscious artistic strategy feigning linguistic nat- uralism, and we should attend carefully to its motive and function. The polyglot text of Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion, for instance, is the central constituent of the film’s meaning.
NoteTriggs, Jeffery Alan. "The Legacy of Babel: Language in Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion." The New Orleans Review 15.2 (1988), 70-74.
NoteThis essay first appeared in The New Orleans Review 15.2 (Summer 1988).
CollectionTriggs Jeffery Collection
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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