Colonel von Waldheim: Labiche! Here's your prize, Labiche. Some of the greatest paintings in the world. Does it please you, Labiche? Give you a sense of excitement in just being near them? A painting means as much to you as a string of pearls to an ape. You won by sheer luck: you stopped me without knowing what you were doing, or why. You are nothing, Labiche -- a lump of flesh. The paintings are mine; they always will be; beauty belongs to the man who can appreciate it! They will always belong to me or to a man like me. Now, this minute, you couldn't tell me why you did what you did.The great irony presented in the movie is that while Colonel von Waldheim was willing to kill and die for a regime that considered the paintings that he loved to be nothing more than degenerate art, Labiche was willing to kill and die for the freedom represented by those paintings, even though he didn't have any aesthetic interest for them. Labiche's actions are a nice example of Voltaire's pledge: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Frankenheimer's "The Train" (1964) with Burt Lancaster is a beautifully photographed (in black and white) war and train movie about the efforts of the French Resistance to avoid the loss of a valuable cargo of paintings stolen by Nazis from a French museum. The movie explores an interesting values face-off between elitist Nazi Colonel von Waldheim and the duty-bound Resistance fighter Labiche, as represented by this monologue: