Au revoir les enfants
Film poster
Directed byLouis Malle
Written byLouis Malle
Produced byLouis Malle
StarringGaspard Manesse
Raphaël Fejtő
Philippe Morier-Genoud
Francine Racette
CinematographyRenato Berta
Edited byEmmanuelle Castro
Music bySchubert
Distributed byMK2 Diffusion (France)
Release dates
  • 29 August 1987 (1987-08-29) (Venice)
  • 7 October 1987 (1987-10-07) (France)
Running time
104 minutes
West Germany
Box office$4.5 million

Au revoir les enfants (French pronunciation: [o ʁə.vwaʁ le zɑ̃.fɑ̃], meaning "Goodbye, Children") is an autobiographical 1987 film written, produced, and directed by Louis Malle.[1] It is based on the actions of Père Jacques, a French priest and headmaster who attempted to shelter Jewish children during the Holocaust. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.


During the winter of 1943–44, Julien Quentin, a student at a Carmelite boarding school in occupied France, is returning to school from vacation. He acts tough to the other students, but is actually a pampered boy who misses his mother deeply. Saddened to be returning to the monotony of boarding school, Julien's classes seem uneventful until Père Jean, the headmaster, introduces three new pupils. One of them, Jean Bonnet, is the same age as Julien. Like the other students, Julien at first despises Bonnet, a socially awkward boy with a talent for arithmetic and playing the piano.

One night, Julien wakes up and finds Bonnet wearing a kippah and praying in Hebrew. After digging through his new friend's locker, Julien learns the truth. His real name is not Bonnet, but Kippelstein. Père Jean, a compassionate, sacrificing priest at the school, had agreed to grant secret asylum to hunted Jews. After a game of treasure hunt, Julien and Jean bond and develop a close friendship.

When Julien's mother visits on Parents' Day, Julien asks his mother if Bonnet, whose parents could not come, could accompany them to lunch at a gourmet restaurant. As they sit around the table, the talk turns to Julien's father, a factory owner. When Julien's brother asks if he is still for Marshal Pétain, Madame Quentin responds, "No one is anymore." The Milice arrive and attempt to expel a Jewish diner. When Julien's brother calls them "Collabos", the Milice commander is enraged and tells Madam Quentin, "We serve France, madam. He insulted us." But when a Wehrmacht officer coldly orders them to leave, the Milice officers grudgingly obey. Julien's mother comments that the Jewish diner appears to be a very distinguished gentleman. She insists that she has nothing against Jews, but would not object if the socialist politician Léon Blum were hanged.

Shortly thereafter, Joseph, the school's assistant cook, is exposed for selling the school's food supplies on the black market. He implicates several students as accomplices, including Julien and his brother, François. Although Père Jean is visibly distressed by the injustice, he fires Joseph but does not expel the students for fear of offending their wealthy, influential parents.

On a cold morning in January 1944, the Gestapo raid the school, searching for Jean Kippelstein. As his classroom is being searched, Julien unintentionally gives away Bonnet by looking in his direction. As the other two Jewish boys are hunted down, Julien encounters the person who denounced them, Joseph the kitchen hand. Trying to justify his betrayal in the face of Julien's mute disbelief, Joseph tells him, "Don't act so pious. There's a war going on, kid." Disgusted, Julien runs off. Jean and Julien exchange books, a shared habit of theirs, as they pack away their belongings due to the closure of the school.

As the students are lined up in the school courtyard, a Gestapo officer denounces Père Jean's actions and calls French people weak and undisciplined. A moment later, Père Jean, followed by the three Jewish boys in single file is led away across the school yard. One by one, as the priest passes through their midst, the students spontaneously call out to him, "Au revoir, mon père!" He pauses and half turns towards them and gives a loud reply: "Au revoir, les enfants! À bientôt!" Jean is the last to exit the school grounds through a metal door in the garden wall. As he steps through the doorway, he glances back for a moment toward Julien, and Julien gives him a timid wave in return.

The film ends with an older Julien providing a voiceover epilogue, in which he mentions that Bonnet, Negus and Dupre died at Auschwitz, whereas Père Jean died at Mauthausen; the school reopened in October. He explains that although more than 40 years have passed, he will remember every second of that January morning until the day he dies.


Actual events

The film is based on events in the childhood of the director, Louis Malle, who at age 11 was attending a Roman Catholic boarding school near Fontainebleau. One day, he witnessed a Gestapo raid in which three Jewish students and a Jewish teacher were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. The school's headmaster, Père Jacques, was arrested for harboring them and sent to the concentration camp at Mauthausen. He died shortly after the camp was liberated by the U.S. Army, having refused to leave until the last French prisoner was repatriated. Forty years later, Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, granted Père Jacques the title of Righteous Among the Nations.


Box office

The film was a box-office success, having 3.5 million admissions in France and grossing $4,542,825 in North America.[2]

Critical response

The film was extremely well received by critics.[3][4][5][6] Au Revoir, les Enfants has an approval rating of 97% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 37 reviews, and an average rating of 9.1/10, with the consensus: "Louis Malle's autobiographical tale of a childhood spent in a WWII boarding school is a beautifully realized portrait of friendship and youth."[7] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 88 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[8]

According to Quentin Tarantino, the title for his first feature-length film, Reservoir Dogs (1992), came about after a patron at a Video Archives rental store, where Tarantino worked, misheard his film suggestion of Au revoir les enfants as "reservoir dogs".[9]

The screenplay was published by Gallimard in the same year.

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominee Result Ref.
1988 Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Au revoir les enfants Nominated [10]
Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen Louis Malle Nominated [10]
1989 BAFTA Awards Best Film Nominated [11]
Best Direction Won [11]
Best Original Screenplay Nominated [11]
Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated [11]
1988 César Awards Best Film Au revoir les enfants Won [12]
Best Director Louis Malle Won [13]
Most Promising Actor François Négret Nominated [12]
Best Writing Louis Malle Won [13]
Best Cinematography Renato Berta Won [13]
Best Editing Emnanuelle Castro Won [13]
Best Sound Jean-Claude Laureux,
Claude Villand,
Bernard Leroux
Won [13]
Best Costume Design Corinne Jorry Nominated [12]
Best Production Design Willy Holt Won [13]
1988 Golden Globe Awards Best Foreign Language Film Au revoir les enfants Nominated [14]
1987 Louis Delluc Prize Best Film Louis Malle Won [15]
1987 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Foreign film Won [16]
1987 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Won [12]
OCIC Award Won
UNICEF Award Won
Sergio Trasatti Award Won
Special Golden Ciak Won
1987 National Board of Review Top Five International Films Au revoir les enfants 3rd place [17]
1988 David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Film Louis Malle Won [13]
Best Foreign Director Won [13]
Best Foreign Screenplay Won [13]
1988 European Film Awards Best Film Nominated [18]
Best Director Nominated
Best Screenwriter Won
1988 Film Independent Spirit Awards Best International Film Nominated [12]
1988 French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Best French Film Won
1988 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Director of Best Foreign Film Won [12]
1989 Bodil Awards Best European Film Won [19]
1989 Chicago Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film Au revoir les enfants Won [20]
1989 Guild of German Art House Cinemas Foreign Film (Silver) Won [12]
1989 London Film Critics' Circle Foreign Language Film of the Year Won [12]
1989 SESC Film Festival Best Foreign Film Louis Malle Won
2022 Online Film & Television Association Film Hall of Fame (Motion Picture) Au revoir les enfants Awarded [21]

See also


  1. ^ Champlin, Charles (18 February 1988). "'Au Revoir Les Enfants' Rooted in the Memory of Louis Malle". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  2. ^ Klady, Leonard (8 January 1989). "Box Office Champs, Chumps". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  3. ^ Thomas, Kevin (16 December 1987). "Movie Review: Les Enfants, Malle's Tale of Occupied France". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (18 March 1988). "Au revoir les enfants". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
  5. ^ Canby, Vincent (12 February 1988). "Au revoir, les enfants (1987)". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  6. ^ Corliss, Richard (1988). "Cinema: Hard Rites Of Passage". Time. Archived from the original on November 11, 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Au Revoir, les Enfants". Rotten Tomatoes. 2012. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  8. ^ "Au Revoir les Enfants". Metacritic.
  9. ^ Debruge, Peter (2013-12-07). "Quentin Tarantino: The Great Recycler". Variety. Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  10. ^ a b "THE 60TH ACADEMY AWARDS". Retrieved 10 December 2023.
  11. ^ a b c d "Film in 1989". Retrieved 10 December 2023.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h "AWARDS & FESTIVALS GOODBYE, CHILDREN". Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Meisler, Stanley (14 March 1988). "7 French Cesars for Malle, 'Les Enfants'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 December 2023.
  14. ^ "Nominees Announced For 1988 Golden Globes". The New York Times. 6 January 1988. Retrieved 11 December 2023.(subscription required)
  15. ^ "Jean-Luc Godard at F.I.A.F." The New Yorker. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  17. ^ "1987 Award Winners". Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  18. ^ "EFA Night 1988". Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  19. ^ "Bodilprisen 1989". Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  20. ^ "1988-2013 Award Winner Archives". January 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  21. ^ "Film Hall of Fame Inductees: Productions". Retrieved 20 December 2023.