|This Land Is Mine|
|Directed by||Jean Renoir|
|Produced by||Dudley Nichols|
|Screenplay by||Dudley Nichols|
|Music by||Lothar Perl|
|Edited by||Frederic Knudtson|
Jean-Renoir-Dudly Nichols Productions
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Box office||$1.4 million (US rentals)|
This Land Is Mine is a 1943 American drama film directed by Jean Renoir and starring Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara and George Sanders. The film is set in the midst of World War II in an unspecified place in German-occupied Europe that appears similar to France. Laughton plays Albert Lory, a cowardly school teacher in a town "somewhere in Europe" (according to the film's opening title card) who is drawn into advocating resistance through his love of his country and of his fellow teacher Louise Martin, portrayed by O'Hara.
The film is one of the more acclaimed of the war films of the era. It won the 1944 Academy Award for Best Sound Recording (Stephen Dunn). Having opened simultaneously in 72 theaters, the film set a record for gross receipts on an opening day upon its release on May 7, 1943.
Albert is an unmarried schoolmaster living with his dominating mother and secretly in love with his neighbour and fellow teacher Louise. Widely regarded as ineffectual, he embarrasses everybody by his panic during an Allied air raid. Louise is however engaged to George, the head of the railway yard, who like many in the town believes that collaboration with the German occupation is the only logical course.
Her brother Paul, who works in the yard, is an active resister and, trying to kill the German commandant Major von Keller with a grenade, instead kills two German soldiers. After turning a blind eye to previous acts of resistance (such as a wrecked train) in the hope of preserving good relations with the town, von Keller must now act and takes 10 local hostages, saying they will be shot in a week if the guilty person who threw the grenade is not found. Albert's mother, jealous of Louise, tells George that it was Paul. George tells von Keller and then, in a crisis of conscience, shoots himself. Albert bursts in a minute later, furious at discovering his mother's treachery, and is found with George's corpse and gun.
Regarding it as a matter for the civilian courts, the Germans expect Albert to be condemned. When in his defence he starts an impassioned plea for resistance, the prosecutor requests an adjournment. That night, von Keller comes to his cell and offers a deal: If he will keep quiet next day, new forged evidence will acquit him. To emphasise the point, in the morning the 10 hostages are shot beneath his window. Back in court, Albert is all the more eloquent in the cause of liberty and the jurors proclaim him innocent. Freed and back in his schoolroom, with a proud Louise by his side, he is reading to the boys the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen when German soldiers come to take him away.
Though the prime purpose of the film is propaganda, to strengthen Allied resolve in the fight against Nazism, critics at the time and since have noted that Nichols and Renoir adopt a distinctively nuanced approach. The Germans, with von Keller an eloquent advocate of the advantages for Europe of Nazi rule, are not shown as mere brutes. Nor are the French, apart from the few mental or physical resisters, shown as heroes battling tyranny. Instead, some readings suggest that, as in Renoir's previous films La Grande Illusion and La Règle du Jeu, class may be more significant than race or nationality. For example, James Morrison cites how the film blames the bourgeoisie, a few left-wing intellectuals excepted, for letting Hitler into power in 1933, for surrendering France in 1940 and for collaborating actively or passively.
This stance was confirmed by Renoir shortly after the film came out when, in a speech, he asserted that his recent films "breathed this breath of anti-Fascism" and were rooted in the experience of the Popular Front of 1936, which was "a magnificent exposition of human brotherhood".