During the First World War, wealthy, aristocratic French Captain de Boeldieu (Fresnay) and working-class Lieutenant Maréchal (Gabin) are shot down over Germany. Brought to a POW camp housing French and British officers, De Boeldieu befriends gentlemanly German commandant Von Rauffenstein (Von Stroheim), a nobleman with whom he shares the bond of social class, as well as wistful ideas about fading, old-world European ideals. Torn between loyalties to class and nation, de Boeldieu reluctantly participates in Maréchal's attempts to hatch an escape plan. Will they succeed?
One of the great achievements in world cinema, Renoir's "Illusion" explores the seemingly arbitrary borders of class, language, and citizenship that divide us. Banned by the Nazis on the eve of the Second War, this evergreen classic remains a compelling hybrid of the prison-escape genre and Renoir's own brand of warm, humanistic drama, characterized by the easygoing yet revealing interactions between captors and prisoners. Expertly directed and wonderfully acted by Gabin, Fresnay, Von Stroheim, and Dalio as French-Jewish compatriot Rosenthal, the Oscar-nominated "Illusion" is ultimately a brilliant critique of war itself. "Grand" indeed.