Francois Truffaut’s classic film The Last Metro depicts the frustration, confusion, and compromise in German occupied WWII France through the lens of theatre. A strong underlying theme of the movie is ambiguity. For instance, the character Bernard Granger is a young, handsome actor who supports the resistance but his actions are very unclear. The portrayal of Bernard Granger parallels France’s romanticized images of resisting the German occupation when in reality who collaborated and how many were part of the resistance is vague at best.
Bernard Granger is mostly concerned with using his dashing looks and charm to shamelessly flirt with women, but still finds time to meet with his friend in the resistance. From what we are shown of Bernard he is against the occupation but his actions are, for the most part, passive. Bernard’s involvement and ideals are largely unexplored except for the implication that he turned the theater’s record player into a bomb. However, we never see the explosion or become involved in his fight.
The viewer is never shown any action, hear any discussions regarding the various governments or political environment, or come to understand any sense of the resistance as an entire movement. One only comes to understand that Bernard is a “sexy rebel” who you assume is an active member of the resistance. One defining moment for Bernard is when his friend from the resistance is arrested. Bernard is apparently waiting to meet with a member of the resistance when his friend is swarmed with police right in front of him and he does nothing but watch.
Perhaps he realizes that he can only do so much and he is better off continuing the work without his friend, but we never see him take any initiative to continue organizing and acting against the German occupation. What we do see, however, is Bernard Granger’s proposed resignation from the theater in order to follow the resistance. Although he at first appears to have followed through with his plans, we later become suspicious of whether he did in fact go off to fight. This is not far from the overall cultural lack of clarity regarding the resistance.
Karen M. Radell states in How Subtext Shapes Narrative in Francois Truffaut’s The Last Metro and Claude Berri’s Uranus, “In French Cinema, especially, we are witness to the struggle between two opposing memories and perhaps two opposing desires: the desire for the affirmation and the desire for truth (Radell, 191). ” In The Last Metro Truffaut is giving us neither. Even with his “epilogue” to sum things up, Truffaut still leaves Bernard’s journey completely open to interpretation.
The loss of those two unaccounted for years doesn’t convey anything except the romanticized notion of “maybe he did something. ” Truffaut is playing with the idea that France likes to see itself as Bernard Granger, but what does Granger really do? What are his beliefs and just how involved with the resistance is he? The fact that the details are not only unclear, but are almost neglected entirely, is indicative of the ambiguity of the times and the preferable image of a more active resistance.