Lacombe, Lucien

Lacombe, Lucien [lakɔ̃b ly.sjɛ̃] is a 1974 French war drama film by Louis Malle about a French teenage boy during the German occupation of France in World War II.

Lacombe Lucien
Theatrical poster
Directed byLouis Malle
Screenplay byLouis Malle
Patrick Modiano
Produced byLouis Malle
Claude Nedjar
StarringPierre Blaise
Aurore Clément
CinematographyTonino Delli Colli
Edited bySuzanne Baron
Music byDjango Reinhardt
Nouvelles Éditions de Films
Paramount Pictures[1]
Vides Cinematografica[1]
Hallelujah Film[1]
Distributed byCinema International Corporation (France)
Constantin Film (Germany)[2]
20th Century Fox (International)
Release date
  • 30 January 1974 (1974-01-30) (France)
Running time
138 minutes
West Germany
Box office$13.1 million[3]


In June 1944, as the Allies are fighting the Germans in Normandy, Lucien Lacombe, a 17-year-old country boy, tries to join the Resistance. The local Resistance leader, the village school teacher, turns him down on grounds of age. Lucien travels back to the town where he works by bicycle and stumbles on the hotel that is the headquarters of the Carlingue, the French auxiliaries of the Gestapo, and is taken into custody. Under the influence of alcohol, he betrays the teacher, who is brought in and tortured. Seeing that Lucien could be useful, the Carlingue recruit him into their lawless regime of extortion and terror.

He enjoys his new power and position, but falls in love with France Horn, a beautiful French-born Jewish girl living in seclusion with her father Albert, a tailor, and her paternal grandmother Bella, who left Paris in fear and are trying to cross the border into the safety of neutral Spain. Their sophistication stands in contrast to Lucien's uncouth nature and lack of education. Forcing himself into a relationship with the girl, Lucien comes to be protective of the very people targeted by his superiors. He is warned that the Allies are winning and that as a collaborator he will be killed.

Albert goes to Carlingue headquarters to see Lucien to discuss his relationship with his daughter man-to-man but is taken into custody by the head of the Carlingue and turned over to the Germans. After members of the Resistance attack the hotel, the inhabitants of the town are rounded up in retribution. Lucien and a German soldier arrest France and Bella but Lucien decides to kill the soldier. He takes the women by car toward Spain but the vehicle breaks down and they go on by foot until they find shelter in a secluded and abandoned farmhouse.

A text epilogue states that Lucien Lacombe was arrested on October 12, 1944, tried and condemned to death by a military tribunal of the Resistance, and executed.


  • Pierre Blaise as Lucien Lacombe
  • Aurore Clément as France Horn
  • Therese Giehse as Bella Horn
  • Holger Löwenadler as Albert Horn
  • Stéphane Bouy as Jean-Bernard
  • Loumi Iacobesco as Betty Beaulieu
  • René Bouloc as Faure
  • Pierre Decazes as Aubert
  • Jean Rougerie as Tonin, chief of police
  • Cécile Ricard as Marie, a hotel maid
  • Jacqueline Staup as Lucienne Chauvelot
  • Ave Ninchi as Mme Georges
  • Pierre Saintons as Hippolyte, a black collaborator
  • Gilberte Rivet as Lucien's mother
  • Jacques Rispal as M. Laborit, the proprietor


Malle wrote the screenplay with novelist Patrick Modiano. Originally, they titled the script Le faucon ("The Falcon") and intended to set it in present-day Mexico, but Malle was not allowed to shoot in Mexico (nor in Chile), so he rewrote the script, giving it a wartime French setting. The script was retitled Le milicien ("The Milice Man").

The movie was filmed in the town of Figeac in southwestern France.[4]


Critical responseEdit

Vincent Canby, film critic for The New York Times, gave it a positive review. He wrote, "Lacombe, Lucien is easily Mr. Malle's most ambitious, most provocative film, and if it is not as immediately affecting as The Fire Within or even the comic Murmur of the Heart, it's because—to make his point—he has centered it on a character who must remain forever mysterious, forever beyond our sympathy."[5]

Pauline Kael wrote of her admiration for Malle's expressive camerawork and visual capabilities. Behind Lucien's blasé, almost empty visage, Kael saw a world of dialogue: "Malle’s gamble is that the cameras will discover what the artist’s imagination can’t, and, steadily, startlingly, the gamble pays off. Without ever mentioning the subject of innocence and guilt, this extraordinary film, in its calm, dispassionate way, addresses it on a very deep level."[6]

Film critic Dan Schneider liked the film, especially Malle's casting of Blaise. Schneider wrote, "Every so often a director makes an inspiring casting choice to not hire a real actor for a role, but go with an unknown, an amateur. Perhaps the best example of this was in Vittorio De Sica's 1952 film Umberto D ... Yet, not that far behind has to be Louis Malle's decision to cast the lead character for his 1974 film, Lacombe, Lucien with an amateur named Pierre Blaise. No actor would likely be able to capture the natural ferality that Blaise brings to the role of a none-too-bright French farm boy who unwittingly, at first, becomes an accomplice and collaborator with the Gestapo in the final months of Vichy France, in late 1944."[7]

Film critic Wheeler Winston Dixon discussed why the film was controversial: "Louis Malle's drama Lacombe, Lucien is one of the most effective films about the capitulation of France to the Nazis during World War II, and one of the most controversial .... Louis Malle's film was daring for its time for suggesting that not every member of the French public was a member of the Resistance; that indeed, many were willing accomplices to the Vichy government, and the sting of the film remains to this day."[8]




  • U.S. National Board of Review: Best Foreign Language Film; 1974.[9]
  • Academy Awards: Oscar, Best Foreign Language Film, France; 1975.[10]
  • British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA Film Award, Best Direction, Louis Malle; Best Screenplay, Louis Malle and Patrick Modiano; 1975.
  • Golden Globes: Golden Globe, Best Foreign Film, France; 1975.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Lacombe, Lucien (1973)". UniFrance. Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  2. ^ "Lacombe Lucien". Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  3. ^ JP. "Lacombe Lucien (1974)- JPBox-Office".
  4. ^ "Filming Locations for Lacombe, Lucien (1974), in France".
  5. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 30, 1974). "Lacombe, Lucien". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Kael, Pauline (2011) [1991]. 5001 Nights at the Movies. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 403. ISBN 978-1-250-03357-4.
  7. ^ Schneider, Dan. Unlikely 2.0, film review, 2008. Accessed: August 20, 2013.
  8. ^ Dixon, Wheeler Winston. Allmovie by Rovi, DVD/film review, no date. Accessed: August 20, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "1974 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  10. ^ "The 47th Academy Awards (1975) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 20, 2013.

External linksEdit