Renoir's Method of Characterization in His Movie Which Called the Rules of the Game Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3305 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 11  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Film

Characterization in Renior's Rules Of The Game

At the level of high culture, most clearly in its modernist phase, there has always been this dream of transcending the local, the provincial, and the national, or in social terms, to transgress the narrow bounds of the bourgeois world and to enter a realm that is nothing if not International: the transcendence lay in being truly "European" or cosmopolitan." (Kroes, 1996, p. 126)

Rural France before World War II was a world of contrasts. There was a stark contrast between the world of the aristocrats and the world of the servants who attended to them. These two worlds were separated by social barriers created by a desire by the bourgeois to retain their status and separation from the lowly elements of society. Seldom did these two worlds intermingle in the way Jean Renoir brings them together in the classic 1939 movie "Rules of the Game."

The Importance of Characterization

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Movies and novels are classified as to the key driving force of the plot. Some stories are clearly plot driven. Plot driven story lines depend on the events to create interest for the audience. Plot driven stories depend on forces outside of the characters themselves to create interest. These types of stories have several pitfalls. The first is that the characters can seem shallow. The true test of a plot driven story is if one could imagine other characters in the same situation without affecting the impact of the film. The characters themselves are not essential to the success of the story. Plot driven stories often involve generic characters such as hero and heroine archetypes.

Term Paper on Renoir's Method of Characterization in His Movie Which Called the Rules of the Game Assignment

The second pitfall of the plot driven story is that the characters risk sounding cliche. For instance, the evil villain may act in such a predictable way that it gives away the plot. The audience enjoys characters that are similar to themselves or someone that they know. The audience will make comparisons about the character and decide what they may do in a similar situation (Nataranjan, 2003). They may fantasize about how they wish they would act, or may realize that they would never have the courage of the characters.

Through watching the actors on the screen the audience will make judgments about them based on their own personal experiences (Nataranjan, 2003). They will make comparisons and try to relate to the characters in a personal way. Characterization is an essential element to the ability of the audience to walk away feeling as if they have been on an adventure themselves (Ford, 2001). Plot driven stories seldom have the ability to do this, especially if the characters end up appearing shallow or cliche.

Characterization is one of the most important elements in the ability to allow the audience to get to know the characters in the story. Characterization is one of the key elements that make "Rules of the Game" a classic. Renoir throws together a number of different characters that are opposites and have different world-views and experiences. He uses the backdrop of World War II to create a mix that would not have normally reacted in the manner that they did. The plot in this case was stereotypical, but the characters themselves are what makes the story so interesting and draws the audience in. Renoir was a master at characterization, which is what accounts for the wide appeal of his film.

Plot Summary

The film begins with an aviator, Andre Jurieux landing after completing a record-breaking trans-Atlantic flight. At first Andre appears to be the quintessential hero, except for the character flaws that Renoir begins to reveal. The first flaw is that he is upset with his ladylove who is not there to meet him with open arms when he returns. He does not like to play by the rules of the game. The character of Andre is an individual who is selfish in many ways. His motivations are self-serving and inspired by the need to gain the admiration of others.

Robert de la Chesnaye is the Jewish aristocrat who is the owner of the country chateau (La Coliniere) where most of the film takes place. Like Andre, Robert does not like to play by the rules. The groundskeeper, Schumacher is another character who likes to make his own rules. However, all of these characters attempt to put on an air of playing by the rules and social correctness. The story line centers on these three men and their relationships with the women at the estate. The story ends with a murder disguised as a hunting accident.

Stylistic Notes

The story is a satire on the French upper classes. The upper class appears as selfish with little regard as to the difficulties that their actions cause to others. The film can be seen as the peeling away of many layers. This is a film that one has to watch several times to get all of the details that are important. In this film what is going on in the background is just as important as what is going on in the foreground. "Rules of the Game" was released as Europe was going to war. Renoir shows the aristocracy as adulterous and silly, slipping in and out of bedrooms in the middle of the night. Their servants tried to emulate them, only they were lacking the means to do so. However, this does not mean that they did not try to act like them, as this film portrays.


All of the characters in the work are trying to seem as if they were somebody other than who they are on the inside. They try to appear to be the perfect gentlemen and perfect ladies. They wish to maintain the expected outer image of a person of their status. However, they soon begin hopping down the hall to in the middle of the night and acting like those whom they do not wish to resemble. The film is based on the concept that the upper classes are concerned about how they appear to others rather than being true to their own feelings.

This was an element that made the film go beyond a plot driven novel. In the public eye the characters appear to be model citizens and deserving of their status. However, what goes on behind closed doors is quite a different story. For instance, at one point Robert and Schumacher apprehend a poacher named Marceau. Marceau is soon flirting with Christine's very willing maid, Lisette.

Renoir broke several very important rules of filmmaking, but he did so in a way that it made the film, rather than ruining it. The first rule of thumb with which many writers are familiar is to keep the plot simple, with no more than one main plot and at the most, two subplots. The second rule is to fully engage no more than five characters. The reasons for these generalizations are simple, when the plot and characters become too complex; the audience has difficulty keeping track of them. However, Renoir broke these two cardinal rules of filmmaking.

In many cases, servants and other peripheral characters are considered extras that add to the atmosphere of the story, but that do not add to the plot or depth of understanding of the characters. This is not the case in Renoir's film. In this film, each and every human interaction has the potential to become a subplot. For instance, we meet Octave, who casts himself as a clown to conceal his inner insecurity. Octave would have been just another piece of scenery if it had not been for the double layer that is revealed as we get to know his true personality. This is also true of the many other servants, socialites, neighbors, and other minor characters in the film.

Renoir used minor characters to build his own inner world that the audience could carry with them into their daily lives. Renoir used the multitude of characters and interactions as the basis for creating his own little world. This adds an element of reality to the work. We do not view our own world as a nice, neat little package where everything flows together. We interact with many different people in a day than just our closest friends. This is the world that Renoir was trying to emulate. He saw the world as a complex interaction among many different elements.

Renoir's film was meant to capture the complexity of human relationships. With everyone that we meet there are several layers. We know people at first by their actions in a face-to-face setting. We make judgments about them and decide how we want to categorize them. We also try to make our own best appearance when we meet others. We want them to have a favorable impression of us. This is the world of the aristocracy where efforts are expended on making certain that they make the impression of a perfect world. However, this layer is only on the surface. Just as we… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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