Forbidden Games (Jeux Interdits) (1952): Rene Clement’s Oscar Winning Tale of Orphans in WWII

Rene Clement’s Forbidden Games tells the touching tale of an orphaned girl (Brigitte Fossey) during World War II.

Forbidden Games
Jeux interdits.jpg

Theatrical release poster

After a strikingly edited opening sequence, which shows the machine-gunning of refugees, the film concentrates on a little Parisian girl whose parents are killed in the attack. Taken in by a peasant family, she develops friendship with their youngest son, sharing with him a private world that the grown-ups cannot understand.

The film draws us deeply into their secret world, where, away from adult eyes, though influenced by the carnage around them, they build a cemetery for dead animals. The scene in which she buries her dead puppy is heartbreaking. It’s also the beginning of a game, hence the title, in which they steal crosses to serve as the headstones of the other buried animals.

The adult world is caricatured in “Forbidden Games,” but the children are observed by screenwriters Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost, based on Francois Boyer’s novel, with real sympathy and understanding.

Director Rene Clement elicits great, natural performances from his young cast. His recreation of their private world and obsession with death is conveyed in masterly manner through the stylized visual imagery and Narcisco Yepes’s sensitive guitar accompaniment.

Though the film won the Venice Film Festival Award and the New York Film Critics Award for 1952, the film was theatrically distributed two years later, thus qualifying for Academy Awards. Sad and intensely touching, the film stars Brigitte Fossey and Georges Poujouly.

“Forbidden Games” received a 1954 Honorary Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, a category that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would establish in 1956.

Oscar Records

It was also nominated for Motion Picture Story, by Francois Boyer.  However, the Oscar in that category went to Philip Yordan for “Broken Lance.”

The Criterion DVD contains a new, restored high-definition digital transfer; collection of new and archival interviews with director Rene Clement and actress Brigitte Fossey; alternate opening and ending to the film; original theatrical trailer.


Directed by René Clément
Produced by Robert Dorfmann
Written by Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost, based on Jeux interdits by François Boyer
Music by Narciso Yepes
Cinematography Robert Juillard
Edited by Roger Dwyre

Production companies Silver Films

Distributed by Les Films Corona; Loew´s (USA)

Release date: May 9, 1952 (France); December 8, 1952 (USA)

Running time: 86 minutes
Box office $36.8 million

About Rene Clement:

Born in Bordeaux, France, in 1913, Rene Clement studied architecture at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts. At the age of l8, he became interested in movies and made his first short. Forced to abandon his studies, two years later, by his father’s death, he became Jacques Tati’s gag writer.

After his military service, Clement served as assistant director to Jean Cocteau (“La Belle et la bete”) and Yves Allegret (Simone Signoret’s first husband) on “La Boite aux reves.”

In addition to “Forbidden Games,” his best-known films are: “Gervaise” (1956), “Is Paris Burning” (1966), and “Rider on the Rain” (1971).