A French Jew and a German communist political prisoner are locked up together in a barbed wire enclosure. A kapo and an officer promise freedom to the one who kills the other by the end of the night. The two camp commanders call it an experiment and make a bet. Only fifteen years after Word War II, this fiction film refuses to use stereotypical characters and introduces a German victim of the Nazis.
“When I studied, I met a filmmaker who decided for me, in a way, what I was going to become. It was Armand Gatti who brought us together.”
« Le cinéma, c’est un système qui permet à Godard d’être romancier, à Armand Gatti de faire du théâtre et à moi des essais. »
“Film is a system that allows Godard to be a novelist, Armand Gatti to make theater, and me to make essays.”
« L'Enclos me devint, dès ses premières images, la transcendance mystérieuse d'un documentaire tourné au coeur même de la haine par quelque diable boiteux. Car on s'étonne qu'un appareil puisse enregistrer les preuves d'un crime sans que les criminels s'en aperçoivent et ne le détruisent. (...) L'Enclos témoigne au même titre que Nuit et brouillard, le film d'Alain Resnais. Il témoigne avec une puissance irrésistible. (...) Ils nous empoigne par la peau du cou. Il nous jette face à face avec cette tête de Méduse par laquelle notre courage doit se laisser pétrifier et convaincre. »
« Ce qui est intéressant dans L'Enclos, c'est que pour la première fois, le camp de concentration est pris comme un objet de réflexion sur le monde. L'aspect allégorique l'emporte sur l'aspect réaliste, et, paradoxalement, ce film se trouve être plus réaliste sur le détail de la vie dans les camps que les précédents films qui n'en montraient que le côté apocalyptique. »
“The need to integrate a private problem with a larger social issue is also a theme in L'Enclos. In this particular case, the experiences of the two protagonists are but a detail in the larger picture. What I liked about Gatti's film is that the two characters experience their problem in terms of the camp while at the same time, the camp is thinking about them. But this way of treating the couple and the group is only possible because it is a face-off between two men who are confronted by the same problems faced by all the prisoners in the camp.”
“[Recorded in Yugoslavia, not far from Lubliana,] Gatti’s abstraction situates the action at a fictional camp called Tatenberg [which refers more specifically to the camp Gatti visited in 1955, the infamous Mauthausen in Austria with its granite quarries]. His goal isn’t to document the grisly details of camp life (which he felt were unfilmable) but to highlight the culture of fear and psychological dehumanization that pervaded all the camps. Gatti has attributed his survival of WWII in part because of his ability to retain his sanity. [In 2011, Gatti had to finally admit that he himself had never been deported to Neuengamme, as he had always suggested.]”
“Apart from Jean Negroni, an actor from the Théâtre National Populaire, as David, Hans-Kristian Blech of the Berliner Ensemble as Karl and one or two others, those appearing in the film were not professionals. Some three-quarters of them were former deportees or partisans – French, German, Yugoslav, Czech and Spanish – all speaking their own language in the film. Many had worked in camps in the region. [The film's cinematographer, Robert Julliard, had previously shot Roberto Rossellini’s Germania anno zero (1948) and René Clément’s Jeux interdits (1952).]”
Description d'un combat (Chris Marker)
L'Enclos (Armand Gatti)
Lola (Jacques Demi)
La Morte-saison des amours (Pierre Kast)
La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni)
Paris nous appartient (Jacques Rivette)
La Proie pour l'ombre (Alexandre Astruc)
Shadows (John Cassavetes)
Une aussi longue absence (Henri Colpi)
Une femme est une femme (Jean-Luc Godard)
Alain Resnais' top 10 of 19618
One of the most acclaimed theater writer-directors of the 20th century, Armand Gatti (born Dante Sauveur Gatti) was originally a member of the informal Left Bank group of filmmakers that included Alain Resnais, Chris Marker and Agnès Varda, but remains an elusive figure for many. He was born in 1924 in a shantytown in Monaco to a maid and an Italian anarchist from Piedmont, who escaped murder in a Chicago slaughterhouse because of his political activities and fled Benito Mussolini’s regime. During World War II, Gatti joined a small French resistance maquis. Captured, tortured, and sentenced to a concentration camp in Hamburg where he was forced to work in a diving bell at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, he eventually escaped and joined a British Special Air Service special forces team. After the war, he worked as an award-winning journalist for many years until he traveled with Chris Marker, published his first plays, and directed his first film, L’Enclos (1961). He was awarded the French Legion of Honour in 1999, the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2004 and the Grand prix du théâtre from the Académie française in 2013. He died on April 6, 2017.
- 1. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Cannes masterclass, 2009.
- 2. Entretien avec Chris Marker par Jean-Louis Pays, Miroir du cinéma, n°2, mai 1962, 4-7.
- 3. Jean Cocteau dans Les Lettres Françaises, 866 (1961).
- 4. Jean Douchet, “Théâtre en rond,” Cahiers du cinéma, 127 (1962), 61.
- 5. Agnès Varda in conversation with Pierre Uytterhoeven, “Agnès Varda from 5 to 5,” In: T. Jefferson Kline (ed.), Agnès Varda: Interviews (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014), 4. Originally published in Positif, 44 (1962). Translated by T. Jefferson Kline.
- 6. Doug Cummings, “Armand Gatti and L'Enclos (1961),” Film Journey, May 27, 2009.
- 7. Dorothy Knowles, Armand Gatti in the Theatre: Wild Duck Against the Wind (London: Athlone Press, 1989), 90.
- 8. “Les dix meilleurs films de l'année,” Cahiers du cinéma, 128 (1962), 2. Resnais listed the films in alphabetical order.