Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Rules of the Game (1939)
(aka La Regle du Jeu)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Rules of the Game (1939, Fr.) (aka La Regle du Jeu)

In director Jean Renoir's great classic set at the start of World War II - a satirical observation and harsh critique of bourgeois life and the social class system - it was a dark upstairs-downstairs bedroom farce and comedic psychological drama concerning the many multi-layered and interlinked affairs, infidelities and liaisons of the upper-class aristocrats and the lowly servants (basically three major love triangles) - presented with impressive deep-focus cinematography; the film presaged the end of an era in 1939 when upheavals were about to occur - and due to its controversial themes was burned during Nazi occupation and was forgotten for many decades before it was rediscovered:

  • the opening sequence: the arrival of famous and heroic pilot André Jurieux (Roland Totaine) at the Le Bourget Airfield near Paris, who had just made a record-breaking, solo flight across the Atlantic; he had journeyed due to his passionate love affair with the married Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Gregor), an Austrian upper-class aristocrat; he was greeted by his middle-aged, clownish, low-brow friend Octave (Jean Renoir, the film's director); many were made aware of Andre's love for Christine when he confessed to a radio reporter that he had been inspired to fly there for the love of a woman, and was disappointed she wasn't there to greet him: ("I did this all for her...I made this flight for a woman. She's not here to welcome me. She didn't even bother"); Octave was disappointed that Andre did not play the role of a national hero
  • meanwhile, Christine was in Paris (listening to the radio broadcast) - she was in the company of her maid Lisette (Paulette Dubost), who had been married for two years to Robert's gamekeeper Edouard Schumacher (Gaston Modot); Christine's worldly husband of three years was French nobleman Robert de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dallo); except for Christine, it was fairly well-known that her husband Robert was having an affair with a mistress, Genevieve de Marras (Mila Parély)
  • Octave became worried over Andre's depressive suicidal tendencies (about not seeing Christine) when he deliberately attempted to smash his car into a tree to kill himself; Octave visited and met separately with Christine and Robert in Paris to convince them to invite Andre to their palatial French country mansion known as La Colinière in Sologne
  • Christine was the first to agree: ("I don't want to be the woman who drove to despair the great hero, the idol of the masses. If his plane crashes, they'll blame it on me. They'll call me a vamp, public enemy, obstacle to progress"); next, Octave spoke to Robert who was at first reluctant to let Andre come - fearing the loss of Christine; Octave felt bad for asking and said he felt like hiding by jumping into a hole: ("I'd no longer have to distinguish between good and bad. The terrible thing is that everyone has his reasons"); however, Robert was easily persuaded to let his upset and despairing romantic rival Andre come: "I'm against barriers, against walls; that's why I'll invite Andre...I trust Christine. Keeping them apart won't stop them from falling in love. It's better that they should meet"; Octave joked: "Why not match Genevieve and Andre?"
  • invitations were being sent out to guests to attend a huge weekend retreat and hunting party at the de la Chesnaye estate - where there would occur many illicit romantic liaisons of rich and poor - and Andre was to be included (as well as Genevieve!)
  • the various loving flirtations, entanglements, and liaisons that occurred before and during the entire week's retreat between many different partners: between Andre and Christine's niece Jackie (Anne Mayen), an art student, Lisette with newly-hired servant and ex-poacher Marceau (Julien Carette) as well as with Octave, and Christine with both Octave and André (she professed her love for both and ultimately promised to run away with each of them)
Various Pairings, Romantic Entanglements and Flirtations
Christine with Her Confidant Octave
Octave with Lisette
Christine with Andre
Jackie with Andre
Marceau with Lisette
The Jealous Schumacher with His Wife Lisette
  • the most famous and key scene - the shooting party, prefaced by the efforts of Robert to reduce the rabbit population on the grounds without using fences; the entire group of guests was involved in the graphic, indiscriminate and non-sensical slaughter of a number of pheasants and rabbits on the grounds (who were driven from their hiding places by the servants beating the ground); there was a disturbing shot of a rabbit in the last throes of dying, clutching its fore-paws to its breast; it presented metaphoric meaning for what would occur later in the film (amongst other vivid 'killings')
The Pheasant and Rabbit Shooting Party
  • in another area of the hunting field area, Robert was with his mistress Genevieve; she threatened to tell Genevieve openly of their affair, to "hurt" him; Robert asked: "What good will that do you?"; she further explained: "I'm tired of suffering alone; it might be easier in company. I want to see your face when Christine leaves, as she will if I tell her"; Genevieve realized that his love was fading for her - and he confirmed it: "I don't love you anymore. I have great affection..." - she interrupted and finished his sentence: "But I bore you...I give up, I can fight hate but not boredom"; tired of everything, Genevieve stated she would permanently leave: "I'll leave...yes, but I would like you to say good-bye very nicely...a fine good-bye. For a few seconds, I'd like to go back three years to the time when there was no Christine. I want you to take me in your arms as you did then. I'll close my eyes and for a moment believe what I wish for. Don't say anything. Kiss me"
  • at the same time, upper-class heiress Christine made a "very interesting" discovery - as she peered through a small set of telescopic field glass-binoculars, she saw evidence (although misinterpreted) of her husband Robert's infidelity, when she spotted his farewell embrace with mistress Genevieve - after Robert had just terminated their 3-year relationship
  • that evening, Christine spoke privately to Genevieve (as she packed to leave) and asked if she had become an "interfering" wife: "Have I tried to thwart your relations with my husband?"; Genevieve expressed surprise that Christine knew of their carryings-on; Christine admitted that her husband Robert wasn't good at keeping secrets and was a poor liar: "He's really a child. He can't hide anything"; Christine was somewhat supportive and empathic with Genevieve, and urged her to stay: "Women have to help each other from time to time. If you're here, he'll fuss over you and pay less attention to me, which would suit me rather"
  • as the evening's after-dinner entertainment, a Tyrolean dance was performed, with Octave dressed up as a bear; also, a much celebrated, darkly disturbing "Dance Macabre" was provided by the servants of the house, who were dressed as skeletal figures with umbrellas; they performed a grotesque dance of death and cavorted among the rich audience; during the performances, there were more views of the various trysts and flirtations occurring among the guests - the dance (and the earlier hunting party) eerily foreshadowed the upcoming cold murder of lovelorn pilot André Jurieux
"Dance Macabre"
  • during an interlude, Robert spoke to Marceau (as his tie was adjusted) and expressed his opinion of the 'battle of the sexes' - and how he thought Muslims had the right idea about multiple relations with females - in harems: "Don't you wish you were an Arab?...Because of the harem...Muslims alone have shown some logic in the famous battle of the sexes. Of course, like us, there's always one they prefer, but they don't have to hurt the rest by throwing them out. I don't want to hurt anyone. Especially women: that's my tragedy"
  • during the music toy scene - Robert, Marquis de la Chesnaye, appeared on stage, proudly showing off his "latest acquisition" or toy - he called it "the culmination of my career as a collector" - a huge music box (calliope) on a stage (adorned with an illustration of a naked woman) was revealed from behind the curtain, and played a tune for the guests - the camera made an incredible panning shot from right to left over the different components of the music machine, and came to rest on the delighted, giggling face of the host
  • during the confusion and havoc of the party, after Christine requested that Andre run away with her immediately ("Andre, I'll go away with you right now or never"), she became upset because Andre wanted to first speak with her husband to follow proper etiquette: ("We must leave with heads high; you'll thank me later"); Robert and Andre engaged in a fist-fight, while Christine expressed her upset to Octave about Andre's reluctance to flee, and desire to follow rules of propriety: "I can't take any more; I've just told Andre that I love him...he's been talking about etiquette...I expected him to carry me off in his arms"
  • due to the jealousy of Schumacher over his wife Lisette's flirtations with Marceau, Schumacher pursued him with a loaded gun and caused considerable damage, pandemonium and disorder amongst the guests; as a result, Robert fired both of them, Schumacher first - and then Marceau, rationalizing: "It would be immoral for me to sack Schumacher and leave you with his wife"; and then Robert became a peace-maker with Andre and apologized for his bad behavior: ("I behaved like the lowest of the low") - realizing the foolishness of their squabbles; both expressed their love for Christine (Andre: "I love Christine" Robert: "And I don't? I love her enough to want her to go with you")
  • meanwhile after most of the guests had left, Christine spoke further to her close friend Octave and expressed her haunted concern that her 3-year marriage had been "built on a lie"; Octave tried to comfort her by explaining that everyone lies, so why shouldn't they as simple folk
  • in the outdoor setting of the garden area (where Christine was wearing Lisette's borrowed cloak with hood), during a sweet, idyllic heart-breaking sequence, Octave confessed that he was a failure in life and a "parasite" living off the goodness of others - or otherwise he would have starved; as they entered the dark and secluded greenhouse ("conservatory"), they were spied upon by Schumacher and Marceau who thought Octave was romancing Lisette; she confessed her close friendship for him - she called him a "fine fellow" (or "good man") and told him "you only need looking after. I'm going to do that." She then admitted her love for him: (Christine: "You know, it's you I love. And you, do you love me?" Octave: "Yes, Christine. I love you." Christine: "Kiss me, then"); after Octave gave her a warm peck on the cheek, Christine protested: "On the mouth, like a lover"; Octave admitted his secret love (although he knew that she was unsuited for him in terms of class), and they kissed each other passionately; Schumacher jealously uttered under his breath: "I'll shoot them both" - mistaking Christine for Lisette, and went off to retrieve his shotgun
The Greenhouse Scene: Octave with Christine
  • the two impulsively decided to romantically run off together (taking a 3 am train); this would turn out to be an impossibility when reality intruded upon the scene - due to their mismatched ages and social classes: (Lisette rightly cautioned: "It's not right, Octave. It doesn't matter if it's only for a bit of fun, but young should live with young, old with old....And you've no money; a woman like Madame has needs; how will you manage?...You're making a mistake. Madame won't be happy"); everything ended with a tragic misunderstanding and "accident" nonetheless; Octave had second-thoughts, saw Andre, and urged him to meet up with Christine at the greenhouse to run off with her - and then fatefully gave Andre his overcoat
  • in the tragic conclusion (in a case of double mistaken identity after an intertwined chain of events), both the fired Marceau and gamekeeper Schumacher (Lisette's jealous husband) observed as Andre walked toward the greenhouse (wearing Octave's overcoat); Schumacher again mistook Andre for Octave who he thought was planning to run off with his wife Lisette; this led to the accidental killing of Andre in the garden that night - Schumacher shot him dead; Marceau reported to Robert and Octave that Andre was the victim (shot "like an animal")
  • in the finale, Robert ruled in a public announcement to those present in the dark cold that the death was a regrettable accident: "Gentlemen. It was merely an accident. Schumacher thought he saw a poacher and did his duty. Fate willed Andre Junieu to be the victim of this error"; one of the guests, Monsieur de St. Aubin (Pierre Nay) derisively rebuked him - noting: "A new definition of the word accident"; the General (Pierre Magnier) disagreed: "No, no, no, no, no, no. La Chesnaye has a touch of class. And that's a rare thing nowadays, a rare thing!"

In Paris: Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Gregor) with Lisette (Paulette Dubost), Her Maid

Christine at The Weekend Hunting Party

Robert's Farewell to Mistress Genevieve

Christine's Binocular-Viewing of Her Husband with Genevieve - and Her Misinterpretation of Infidelity

Christine Speaking to Genevieve About Her Affair With Her Own Husband

Robert's Discussion with Marceau About Muslim Harems and Women

Evening's Host: Robert Showing Off His Mechanical Toys

A Lighted Calliope

Christine Requesting that Andre Run Away With Her Immediately - He Was Reluctant

Robert's Firing of Schumacher - and Also Marceau

Lisette's Cautioning of Octave About Foolishly Running Away with Christine

The Accidental Murder In the Dark of Pilot Andre by Schumacher, Standing next to Marceau

(r to l): Monsieur de St. Aubin and the General - The Film's Last Two Lines of Dialogue


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