Friday, January 29, 2010

The 400 Blows: Societal Justice and Accountability

The French New Wave (Le Nouvelle Vague) is an artistic movement that “made its first splashes as a movement shot through with youthful exuberance and a brisk reinvigoration of the filmmaking process.” (Phillips, 2005). It emerged during the 1950s and was at its peak between 1958 and 1964. Furthermore, this movement is based on two guiding principles of Cahier critics at that time: (1) a rejection of classical montage-style filmmaking in favor of mise-en-scene, or literally, “placing in the scene” (favoring the reality of what is filmed over manipulation via editing) and (2) a conviction that the best films are a personal artistic expression and should bear a stamp of personal authorship.

Moreover, it was in 1959 that the French new wave really ‘broke’. Truffaut’s first feature, “The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups)”, was one of the featured films during that year. It was considered as a semi-autobiographical film, which means that this film was inspired by Truffaut’s troubled childhood. In fact, this filmmaker considers his first feature as his most personal film, and he even identified Antoine Doinel, the lead character in his films, as his alter-ego. Just like Antoine, Truffaut too had an adoptive father and a mother who resented having a child. Moreover, it is evident that this film is considered as a New Wave film, since it exhibits one of the guiding principles of the movement, which was the personal authorship of the film. Thus, The 400 Blows is one of the most important films of the French New Wave, as it is considered to be one of the earliest and most successful New Wave films.

“The 400 Blows” tells about a story of a young teenager boy named Antoine Doinel who is going through a difficult childhood as he struggles with the hardships of life. He lives with his mother who really did not want him to be born in the first place, and with his stepfather who does not understand him and even brought him to the police for stealing a typewriter. Moreover, he also deals with difficulties at school as he always get scolded and punished by his teacher for reasons that at times are really his friends' fault. He also struggles with studying as he is not enjoying it and would prefer working rather than going to school. As a consequence of always getting into trouble or causing the trouble, he is finally sent to a juvenile camp or center. Nevertheless, at the end of the story, he gets to see what he has been long dreaming about- the ocean or the sea.

Going to the themes of “The 400 Blows”, there's friendship, family, education and childhood that can be found in this film. Furthermore, the central themes that are to be found in this film are escapism, mischief, discipline, injustice and disobedience or noncompliance. Escapism is a central theme in this film because aside from the apparent and final escape of Antoine from the juvenile center, he would previously escape from his parents every time he gets into trouble by staying at another place, such as his friend Rene's house. He would also escape school by not going to class and watch a movie or go to an amusement park instead. Mischief is also a dominant theme because the lead character himself, which is Antoine, is always a mischief. He steals things such as a bottle of milk, his stepfather's Michelin Guide and a typewriter. He would also fool his teacher by writing a forged excuse note for not being able to go to school and also his parents by asking them a certain amount of money that is more than what he really needed. In addition, discipline is also a central theme in the film as one can see that Antoine is punished in different ways for many times by his parents and his teacher as he always misbehaves. There is also injustice as a central theme of the film as Antoine experiences maltreatment from his parents and his teacher. He is not rightly treated by his parents since they would let him only sleep in a sleeping bag. On the other hand, his teacher accused him right away of a crime such as the pin-up incident without even knowing what really happened. Finally, disobedience or noncompliance is a central theme in this film as Antoine disobeys his parents and his teacher and would not strictly follow his school's rules.

Now looking at the political aspect of the film with its given themes, “The 400 Blows” mainly depicts the portrayal of power and coercion through institutions in the society. First of all, who should discipline Antoine for misbehaving? It can be seen in the film that every time Antoine is in trouble at school, the school would always call his parents. There was this instance that the teacher even said something about parents being responsible for their children. On the other hand, Antoine's parents are considering sending Antoine to a military school as they know that he would be disciplined in there. This could mean that in the film, there is a confusion of roles and responsibilities between the two of the most prominent institutions in the society- the family and the school. Moreover, at the end of the film, Antoine is sent to the center for juvenile delinquents, which means that he is now under the institution of law.

Another question is who should be really blamed for Antoine's deviant behavior? One can see that in the film, Antoine's mother does not really take care of his son while Antoine's teacher at school is very strict, harsh, and unfair to his students. So is it Antoine's family, or Antoine's school that should be blamed? Supposedly, it is the institutions in the society that establishes the rules and norms that shape the behavior of the people. However, in the case shown in this film, it seems that it is the institutions themselves that determine or shape Antoine's behavior. If I'm not mistaken, it was pointed out in the class discussion that Antoine's deviant behavior represents disorder, or a challenge to the society's order. If this is really so, then this means that in the film, the order in the society that the institutions have established is threatened by the institutions themselves.

Nevertheless, these institutions are the ones that are powerful in the society, as portrayed by the film. An example of this is Antoine’s teacher. We see that he has authority, thus power, over his students as he forces them to follow his rules and punish them if they disobey him. Hence, based on the ‘carrot and stick’ approach, the teacher uses ‘stick’ to his students to get to obey him or in other words, to manipulate their behavior. On the other hand, Antoine’s parents, given that they are authoritative figures since Antoine should follow them, are using the ‘carrot’ so just Antoine would behave. In other words, they reward, or even bribe him, just so that he would conform to what his parents want.

As the portrayal of power is very evident in the film through the role of the institutions, coercion is very evident in here as well. These powerful institutions use coercion to control the actions of Antoine. This means that they use threats and punishments in order for Antoine to follow the rules. For example, Antoine’s parents threaten him that if he does not do well in school or does not behave well, they would be sending him to military school. The same way also goes for Antoine’s teacher. He threatens Antoine that he would call his parents if he does not behave in school. Moreover, one who coerces another person has power over that person because he or she is able to influence the behavior of that person with the use of threats and punishments.

In conclusion, I think that “The 400 Blows” not only tells us what a difficult childhood could be like, but as to who could be and should be responsible for the welfare of a child. Furthermore, I think that this is where the public and private sphere goes in as well. Should the government (the public) be the one to discipline a person who does not conform to the society or, should that person’s family (the private) be the one to discipline their family member? And my one last question for this film would be, ‘Which is better so that one would follow the rules: to punish, or to reward?’



“There are no good and bad movies, only good and bad directors.” Thus wrote François Truffaut in one of his essays in the year 1954, pertaining to the French-originated film theory called La politique des auteurs, or more commonly known as the auteur theory. A brainchild of prominent critics of Cahiers du Cinema, it claims that the film medium acts as a blank canvass for the artist that is the filmmaker. Every film has a distinct signature that makes it different from the rest of what was produced, thus the director would be regarded as an auteur or author of his work. Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, and Rohmer, to name a few were staunch advocates of this approach, and even especially applied it to the films which they themselves would later on produce.

Now the La Nouvelle Vague, or the cinematic movement known as the French New Wave, could be said to be an application of this particular theory to practice by the writers of Cahiers. Noted in the decades of the 50s and 60s, this movement was “linked by their self-conscious rejection of classical cinematic form and their spirit of youthful iconoclasm”. The movement broke free from the constraints of the literary and narrative form of the classic French cinema (which was regarded as “high” or untouchable art), and became more engrossed in the social and political debacle that came during that time. Thus, works like Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour and Godard’s A bout de soufflé, not only had idiosyncratic themes and stylistic elements, but also became a commentary on social reality.

Following the same paradigm, French auteur François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (Les quatre cent coups) is a lustrous example of the characteristics of such movement. Created in the year 1959, this French New Wave classic shows the struggle not just of protagonist with his identity as an impoverished youth, but also the struggle with authority, institutions and social constructs. The film follows the unfortunate life of a typical Parisian adolescent named Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) as he faces one trouble after another. Be it in school with difficult teachers, at home with parents who constantly argue, or at a detention center for juvenile delinquents, Antoine faces the unintended consequences that a boy of his disposition entails. He is singled out for his mischievous ways, no matter how he tries to escape from reality. The movie ends with the protagonist breaking free from the constraints of the detention center and running towards the sea and a future of uncertainty.

One of the main objectives of Truffaut in coming up with this particular film is “to portray a child as honestly as possible…” (Writing About Film, 1982). This perhaps is the point of view of the movie. It looks at the realities of the world through the lenses of a 12-year old boy, undergoing both internal and external conflict.

It must be noted first and foremost that Anotoine, being an adolescent, at the time when he is not considered a child, but at the same time he isn’t exactly an adult. He is in an awkward phase where he is still trying to figure out who he is and what his purpose is in life. Thus, it is inevitable that without proper guidance, he could easily swayed into doing reckless actions—such as skipping classes, ganging up on the teacher, and rebelling against his parents. However, one must note that this is merely at the identity level; and that there are still other external forces that mold the boy into his identity. Social institutions such as the school and family (as seen in the film) could account for who he is and who he might become. And as one might notice, the very institutions that he socializes in are fractured: for instance, at school, he is punished for doing petty slipups by his strict teacher; whereas at home, he is ignored by his mother and father. His exposure to theft, illegal business, and detention disillusions him in such a way that it corrupts his childlike innocence. This is materialized in the scene where Antoine was taken by the police and placed at the back of the car, as the camera zooms to his stoic face and subtly shows a tear running down his cheek. One would see that Antoine is helpless with his condition, because he becomes directly involved with all these internal and external elements.

The film is quiet, but powerful; as it does not force the audience to perceive the film in a certain way; rather it lets the simple unfolding of the plot tell the story as it is. Truffaut, in his first full-length feature, was successful in showing the struggle that Antoine has experienced as boy coming of age and living in a Paris that is totally different from what one might expect. The camera simply follows the boy, without judgment, without preconceived notions whatsoever. In fact, it also seems as though the viewers are part of the movie since there are certain camera shots wherein the characters themselves look straight at the camera. Though one might argue that The 400 Blows can be further appreciated given the fact that it is based on the childhood of the filmmaker himself (creating “authorship”, literally), it also makes sense to see only what’s on the screen. In this sense, the viewers are empowered to dig their own layers of meanings based purely on the film.

Also, the technical aspect of the film also puts itself in the shoes of the young Anotoine. There are instances wherein the camera uses high angle shots to frame the setting, such as in the first scene of the film: The viewers see Paris in such a way that it seems towering and intimidating as exhibited by the worm’s eye view of the camera. This perspective is what most youth view the world---innocent, even to the point of being scary. In addition, the film elements play up on the interplay between the innocence of youth and the corruption of adulthood. For example, it was in one memorable scene with the children watching a play that we see their simple joys and content, as opposed to the adults who need to be secured of wealth, beauty, or power to feel satisfied with their lives, as exhibited for instance by Antoine’s mother or the father of René, Antoine’s best friend. This brings viewers to questions the authority of adults: just because they are older and wiser, does it necessarily mean they know better? After all, these are the ones who was responsible for a World War a decade or two from when the film, and therefore the setting, was established. It seems that Antoine learned the answer the hard way—that the adults do not necessarily have all the right answers. Thus, through the long shot when he was running at the near end of the movie, there is a sense of wanting to escape from the clutches of the system inhibited by adults, into a world of his own idealization. The movie ends with a famous freeze frame of the protagonist, with his uneasy eyes staring at the viewers, forcing us to look back at all he had been through and reflect on the uncertainties that lie ahead.

Overall, Truffaut’s The 400 Blows is a cinematic experience about the youth, one that enriches viewers with French culture and at the same time empowers the viewers to think deeply about the thought-provoking premise of the story. If it truly is “raising hell”, as what the English translation claims it to be, then can one expect a hell simply because of Antoine Doinel’s own misgivings, or is it because it was shaped by some other hell in its context? This is something to ponder on to truly appreciate the film.



The French New Wave. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Auteur Theory. (n.d.). Retrieved from Australian Catholic University:

The 400 Blows (n.d.). Retrieved from the Internet Movie Databse:

Feuring, D. (2009). Responsibility of the Auteur: Vulnerability of the Troubled Filmmaker. Retrieved from Suite 101:


Kristine Camia said...

When a young boy lost his way and went to the wrong path, can we held him fully responsible for what happened? Can we say that it was his decisions and acts that solely led him to that situation? Would it be fair to judge and punish him just base on how we, as individuals and as a society, see him and not bother to understand?

They say we are all accountable for our own actions. We make choices and prepare ourselves for its consequences. But sometimes we make the wrong choices. And it is either because we don’t have any other choice or we just don’t know how to distinguish the right from wrong.

In the film the ‘The 400 Blows’ (1959) by director Francois Truffaut, the protagonist Antoine Doinel is young and clueless. He is in the stage of life where people are just starting to know and understand themselves and their environment. This is the stage when they search for their place in their own family and in their society. But as we have seen from the film, Antoine did not get much help in doing this. Unlike other kids, he sleeps in the kitchen and has little money to go to school. He cannot study at home because the lights should be out early. His mother and stepfather are always busy working. But there are also good times like when he nearly started a fire and got to watch a film for what he did. And then once, he saw his own mother kissing a man other than his stepfather.

And in school, where we expect to find a parent figure in our teachers, he was unreasonably punished and labelled as a troublemaker. He would see his classmates doing inappropriate things but they don’t get punish. And sometimes, he would witness his teacher blaming other students for something they did not do. If you were him, what would all this mean?

For a young adolescent, this will mean that whatever he choose to do, he can or cannot be punished. Judgement and punishment is arbitrary. When the day is good, they might forgive and let you go. Or if the clouds are dark, they can punish you. But the opposite may also happen. No one knows when or how. Because this is how things work, sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you are not.

If this thinking would be instilled in a young man’s mind like Antoine’s, then we must not be surprised if he decided to take the wrong path and just hope and do everything for him not to be caught. He saw his teacher, even his mother did it. They did something wrong but no one punished them. If they can do it then so can he.

Antoine Doinel made his choice. It is just unfortunate that he did not have the guidance to make the right choice. No one showed him what a right choice looks like adequately. But he is the one who made the choice and for his family, his teachers and the society he’s living in, he must be solely accountable for it. He did something wrong and he must pay for it.


denisefrancisco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
denisefrancisco said...


Charity begins at home.

I remember my parents saying this phrase over and over while I was growing up. And I must agree that they were effective in making me realize the importance of what it actually meant. For me, the reason behind my clear understanding of such statement is because they themselves made me feel how it was to have charity at home. And this was a feeling that Antoine was deprived of in the guidance of his own family.

Anton’s childhood was a difficult one. It was as if his private life was disturbed, in a sense that it was in his own home that this so-called charity was violated. He was treated as a stranger. He was asked to sleep in a sleeping bag, while his parents lay comfortably on a bed. He even had to look after himself, as if he was a student living in a boarding house and was expected to act independently and survive on his own. Whenever his parents would come home, he was expected to have accomplished what was asked of him such as buying ingredients that his mother needs for her cooking, and getting punished terribly if he is not able to do such. He didn’t live comfortably in his own home. His actions were limited. And with such feeling, a confusion of affection has developed in him. When his mother suddenly became concerned of his health and education, she showered him with much attention. And instead of Antoine appreciating the gesture, he even found it unusual and very uncomfortable for him. This just shows that he is living a different life compared to others. He grew up not realizing that affection and love was supposed to be felt within the four walls of your own home. Instead, he was subject to feeling rejected and uncared for, thus accepting that it was his fate to be treated that way.

Maturity is not easy to achieve. We need the patience and understanding in order for this development to take place. I’d like to think that age does not exactly guarantee maturity. Instead, what makes a person mature is composed of several factors. These factors include how one was brought up by his parents, the good values taught to him, personal experiences, continuing guidance and as well his relationship with the people around him. Antoine’s parents expected so much from him that it was hard for them to accept the vulnerability of their child that whenever he made a mistake, they’d be greatly disappointed about it. The relationship between the parents and Antoine was very rigid. There seems to be an impenetrable wall between them which made it hard for them to relate with one another. The roles of parent and child in their situation were given a very static meaning, thus dictating how one should behave in accordance to his role within the relationship sphere. As a result, both sides of the relationship find it hard to adjust and balance their actions. For example, because Antoine felt that he was constrained by his parents, he saw the act of running away from his family and committing mischievous acts as his great escape. To him, it was a liberating force towards true freedom and happiness. On the other hand, heartlessly sending their son to jail and the center of delinquents became his parents’ outlet for releasing their frustrations in him.

denisefrancisco said...


We know that institutions are characterized by a set of rules and that people within these institutions relate in manner as if they have a specific role to play. Yet the success of an institution is not guaranteed alone by the rules and the roles present, but as well as the relationship of the actors that interact with each other. The way power is distributed and exercised must be seen in a dynamic view and not strictly imposed. Changes must always be anticipated in order for adjustment to easily take place.

The concept of reward and punishment is viewed in different ways, especially by parents. Some see reward as an effective way to discipline a child, while others prefer punishment as means of instilling good behavior. Nevertheless, people must see the family as an important institution where a person, no matter how young or old is given the chance to develop. No matter what role you play, parent or child, maturity is a continuing development process. Nevertheless, it is a reality that in this kind of relationship, much is expected from the parents in molding their child, no matter how disappointing it can be. You cannot just assume that a child is ready to face the real world when you want him to. It is a gradual process that requires the direct involvement of the parents. And in the process, good and bad things can happen, but the important thing is that both sides must be open to changes, adjustments, fallbacks and other circumstances along the way.

Anonymous said...

Part I

Les 400 Coups has been constantly read by many critics as François Truffaut’s “spiritual autobiography.” It has been further argued that it surpasses many films in the “degree of intimacy with which it reveals the spirit of the director,” though Truffaut sometimes rejects such notions (which is understandable given that the film is an indictment of parents, his being alive when the film was released). Notwithstanding such objections, authorial ideology appears to dominate the production of the film. Sufficient parallels with Truffaut’s life, for instance, can be observed in the film.

That being established, the Coups can be examined by relating it (being a biography) to history. C. Wright Mills calls this as ‘sociological imagination,’ where one situates ‘personal troubles of the milieu’ in the context of ‘public issues of the social structure.’ Such attempt to look for their intersection will allow us to look beyond the individual and understand the larger historical scene in terms of its implications in the social experiences of those individuals.

The Coups, however, exhibits two temporal settings: the setting inside the film and the context of the film production. The film production, as in Hiroshima mon Amour, is set during the French New Wave. Such can be seen in the form and content of the film itself. The deliberate realism incorporated in the film is obviously an influence of the movement in attempting to bring film nearer to social experience while avoiding manipulation of the audience’s reaction. Another influence of the movement is the absence of a linear development of the film, such that other events could be shifted forward. The Coups, alternatively, exhibits a cyclical plot. As Anne Gillain observed, for instance, throughout the film, there is an alternation of settings: inside and outside. This observation will gain further significance when we examine the relation of the film with the temporal setting inside the film. These impressions of the movement in the film, as has been argued elsewhere, have their share of social impetuses that spurred the movement in the first place (the budget, for instance, was meager compared to other great movies such as Citizen Kane).

The alternation of settings (i.e. inside, then outside) inscribes a “tension-release” rhythm in the film. When Antoine is at home or at school, for instance, Antoine’s behaviour is constrained. When he is outside, however, he is free to roam and explore. This cycle is repeated throughout the film, culminating only when Antoine reached the ocean. This can be juxtaposed with the social context inside the film. The story, assuming it is Truffaut’s (semi-)biography, was set in 1945 France during the Liberation of Paris. The aftermath however was characterized by social unrest. The most pressing issue was the problem of juvenile delinquency, rooting from, as James Travers suggests, the “scarcity of housing and secure, well-paid employment...exacerbated by the beginnings of the breakdown of the nuclear family...” This context rationalizes the personal experiences of Truffaut transposed in the film. The poverty experienced by Antoine’s family is reflective of the poverty and shortage during the post-war period. Combined with the social realism dominant in film-making during the French New Wave, this issue becomes ascendant in the film. In view of political socialization and action, the story of Antoine in 1959 was used by the press to address child neglect and education of the youth.


Anonymous said...

Part II

In another angle, the Coups may be viewed as a presentation of the interaction between the social context and human agency. By problematizing deviance/subversion, especially in the case of this film, it attempts to challenge the existing social order. John McCarter even suggested that the film was a “critique of modern, dehumanizing institutions.” The film then effectively stages the conflict/negotiation between the social structure and behaviour. The symbolic representation of tension and release in the spatial alternations is again enlightening. With this, we can see the disjoint between the impositions of social structure and the individual actions.

Authorial ideology (auteurship) stands out of the filters that have been identified elsewhere. The attempt of the director to infuse his personal experiences in the film, indeed much of his films, is evident throughout the film. The use of cinema as an escape (from school and from disputes in family) is indicative of the role of movies in his survival (running an illegal cine-club and Bazin of Cahiers du Cinema rescuing him from prison).

In the end, Truffaut, through the film, suggests that, as he once remarked, “a man is formed between seven and sixteen, later he will relive all his life what he has acquired between these two ages.” Luis Alberto Álvarez used to say of Truffaut, "all of his work is a search for a lost childhood."


Othello II/Lloyd said...

The film ‘The 400 Blows’ (Les Quatre Cents Coups) by French director Francois Truffaut is particularly about the power and authority of disciplinary institutions over a particular person in contemporary society. Disciplinary institutions featured in the film include the school, prison, and, the work camp. The concept of the family (particularly the parents) as an institution wielding power over an individual is also explored in the film. Power and authority over the governed of the aforementioned institutions is the main theme of the 1959 French New Wave film.

It can be said that Antoine Doinel, the film’s antihero, is a victim of these disciplinary institutions – institutions which sometimes abuse or misuse their immense powers over individuals. This can be seen in a lot of instances throughout the film. The teacher, an authority figure, applies incommensurate punishments to petty classroom offenses committed by Antoine. He was turned over to the juvenile detention center by his stepfather, instead of taking greater care of his stepson after committing a crime. At one point, he was treated badly at the work camp after committing a mistake. Throughout the film, Antoine’s parents either abused or misused their powers over the child through bribery, spoiling, or being “too hard on the child” at times.

According to Andrew Heywood, power is defined as the ability to influence the behavior of others, typically through the power to reward or punish. On the other hand, Heywood defined authority as the right to influence the behavior of others on the basis of an acknowledged duty to obey. Using these definitions, the disciplinary institutions featured in the film and Antoine’s parents do qualify as agents who have control and influence over others; they are power and authority brokers.

Sourpuss, Antoine’s teacher, personifies abuse of power and authority. His unjust treatment of Doinel and the rest of his students expose the viewers to the potential unfairness of authority figures in exercising their powers in the conduct of their duties – a scenario typical in classroom settings.

On the other hand, both the juvenile detention center and the work camp where Antoine was incarcerated apply power and authority in order to establish order. These state apparatuses instilling discipline to wrongdoers expose the viewer to what power and authority a state is capable of exercising.

Antoine’s mother and stepfather personify the misuse of power and authority. The mother’s use of bribery in order for Antoine to keep the former’s infidelity secret, and her spoiling of Antoine characterize a parent’s misuse of her authority over the child. Instead of being a good role model to her child, the mother is a bad influence. At times, she (or his father) is treating him too badly. His father has abused him physically in one scene. The father is also the one who turned over Antoine to the detention center instead of taking better care of his stepson after committing a crime of thievery. In this context, we can see the inability or incompetence of Antoine’ parents in the performance of their duties and responsibilities as such.

It can be concluded that the movie ‘The 400 Blows’ is a story exploring the different kinds of power and authority (power in the family setting, power in school setting, and power in prison setting) and its different applications.


Heywood, Andrew. 2007. Politics, 3rd Edition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


remegio said...

One of the best adored French films, “Les quatre cents coups” directed by François Truffaut was a breakthrough in the field of French film making. The movie showcases Antoine Doinel, a teenaged boy living in Paris who has various troubles at school and home, which, eventually, lead him to run away. Subsequently, while hiding in his best friend's house, he decides to try to make some money by stealing a typewriter from his step-father's office. Such actions, however, only bring him more difficulties. Until one day he finds himself in an observation center for juvenile delinquents.

The trials of Antoine is well portrayed and well realized. The portrayal seems so real that it creates a sense of sorrow in the viewer. The usage of real-world rather than studio sets helped to produce a believable appearance of the movie as a whole. Truffaut was successful in capturing telling moments in the boy’s life, being a trouble maker at school, suffer a burdened life at home, this enables to enter into the youths world and suffer various hardships and humiliations in the lens of a child and not as an adult.

The boy’s relationship with people around him was evoked in a very elegant way. Antoine’s relationship with his mother was established with elegance. The movie showed Antoine seeing her committing infidelity; the movie also had an instance where Antoine overhears her mother talking about wanting to have an abortion during her pregnancy. In contrast the movie shows her expressing her love for the boy or pleading with him to mend his behaviour. In this way, the viewer is aware not only about the emotions of the mother to the child but also how does this affect her child. The movie does not however focus on this single relationship, but additionally shows the protagonist’s interaction with other people in his life. This includes his kind step-father and his judgemental teacher.

Despite the often sad circumstances of Antoine's life, his existence is not filled wholly with despair. The movie shows that Antoine also experienced some happy moments. One of the instances was that when the boy was introduced to the writings of Balzac. The viewer was also shown the boys thrilling experience of hiding in his best friends house and stealing the typewriter or the bottle of milk.

In the political dimension of the film, the movie poses a question on the society itself. What does the society value most, and who are to blame for child delinquents like those of Antoine. I believe that the movies points out to the institutions themselves, being permanent and resistant to change and adjustment. We can attribute it to the post World War II era where there were societal changes and confusions all over Europe. In the end, Antoine’s face is juxtaposed with the open sea which signifies change and flexibility, which I believe is what the film advocates.

The movie 400 Blows is indeed well crafted, engaging and very touching. Even though infused with little or no aesthetic elements at all it is able to elicit sympathy for the young protagonist. The setting, the story and the actors created a great degree of realism which makes the film all the while believable. In this regard, I believe it would be an effective tool for political socialization because it is enamoured with over flowing realism which I think is effective in eliciting emotions from viewers. In addition it is certainly a consistently accomplished work that is very entertaining. A black and white film that is indeed full of colors.

Nons said...

Who is to be blamed when a person goes against the very fabric of society? Is it the parents who are supposed to be the prime caregivers of a child? Is it the teacher who is supposed to teach the child the basic things in life? Is it the government who is supposed to maintain peace and order through the enforcement of rules? If a person goes against any of the things that these three main institutions present in a child’s life believe in, does it mean that the child is already a deviant—someone who is beyond redemption of any one?
We see in the French new wave film The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coup) this very dilemma. Antoine Doinel is a nine year old who is steadily becoming a problem child. He is always cutting classes, stealing things from his parents, that sort of thing. In school, he was severely punished by his teacher even though he was not the person responsible for the transgression. At home, when he almost set the whole apartment on fire, his parents took him to the movies. As we see this, we see the erratic behavior of the people around him when it comes to punishment. At school, every single transgression that he commits is punishable—either being forbidden to go on recess or by being suspended by the school officials; but at home, it’s as if he was being rewarded for doing the things he does. A growing child with that sort of people shaping him is bound for some trouble. And it’s trouble that he encounters. He stole a typewriter and his father—who later on we learn adopted him—sent him to juvenile prison. It’s as if his parents had already given up on him.
What we see here is justice being served, but how justly and at what cost? What happened to Antoine could easily happen to any of us. It doesn’t mean that a child has both parents and who goes to school will go the straight and narrow path. At one point in our lives, we are going to be tempted to go the other way and it is up to this people to guide us back to the right path. A society full of people who are either self absorb—like Antoine’s parents or those clueless on how to wield the power they have properly—like the school teacher means a society that is full of miscreants and other people of its kind. We see the effects of these kinds of people to Antoine, he was lost and as if he will never know what’s supposed to be his path.
And what is supposed to be the role of the state in all of these things? Is the state supposed to just be an arbiter in these kinds of relationships? Or is the state supposed to play a more active role in shaping the people in its society? The state should be somewhere in the middle, where it doesn’t act as if the actions of its citizens is something easily dismissed nor it should be one of Big Brother who needs to regulate every single movement of its citizens. Through this we could easily achieve a society where deviants and others are minimal and easily managed.
But this of course is easier said than done. Such abilities of the institutions of the home, the school and the state are not easily exercised by all individuals. And that is where the problem comes in. As has been said before, the erratic use of justice and judgment could actually be detrimental to the child. How to do this both in a way that will benefit all is something that needs to be considered by all actors involve for only through this could we avoid Antoine Doinel’s situation.


katwinny said...
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katwinny said...

“The 400 Blows” is a beautiful movie that anyone can relate to because we all experienced being in that stage where we search for our identity, purpose or meaning- that stage which we describe as ‘not yet a girl not yet a woman.’ The film is about the character of Antoine as we follow him with his ‘misadventures’ in his home, school, and the ‘real world.’ Given that he is as vulnerable as he can be, different external factors shape his life and his identity. He has parents who do not know how to discipline their child, teachers who punish students for every mistake and friends who, like him, feel lost as well. Having this as the world that you live in, it’s inevitable that hell will be raised.

Knowing that the film is a semi-autobiography of François Truffaut, the filmmaker, gives it a more personal touch, a deeper emotional meaning which makes the audience, at least for me, relate to it more. You can look back to your own childhood and just say, “Yes, I’m not the only one who committed such mistake.” I think this is one if the strengths of the New Wave films because they imitate reality. What people watch in the film is something that they can see themselves as part of.
The role of institutions is a central theme of the film. How should our family, school and the state interact to raise a child the right way? How should they form a balance between rewards and punishment to discipline a child? These are the issues raised by the film. The school focuses on punishment as a tool to correct a mistake. On the other hand, Antoine’s mother used rewards for him to do well. I think what Antoine needed was the guidance and discipline from his father. Both the parents did not know how to raise a child but at least the mother tried and made an effort. With the father, he just sent him to the police when he did not know what to do anymore. For me, the role of family is to give the foundation of his identity- his values. The school is where you form relationships with people you can identify with but properly guided by teachers and authorities. The state is responsible for making the rules for the family and school to properly do their parts.

Much is expected from someone growing up. There’s this belief that you should automatically know what’s wrong from right, but without the proper guidance and environment, how would you be able to do that? With Antoine, growing up was so difficult because the adults in his life seemed to have not gone beyond their own ‘growing up’ stage. He was practically raising two adults. Having the opposite of what the norm should be, Antoine felt lost in the ‘real’ world which was emphasized by the way the scenes were shot. The effect of this to me was to empathize with Antoine’s character.

The last scene of the film was very symbolic. He finally was able to see the ocean, which symbolizes the vastness of life and its ever-changing form. This tells that no matter how lost Antoine was, there’s a chance for change. With his young age, so much more has happened to him already but so much more will still do.


Czarina XD said...

To what extent can we reconcile one’s pursuit for identity and the way by which justice is exercised in a society? What really matters? Is it the extent by which a person can choose how he wants to live his life? Or is it to remain carefully bound by the arbitrary system of organization and castigation that is defined by the prevailing order?

One of the most acclaimed works of Francois Truffaut, The 400 Blows (1959) is not just a film that reinforced the French New Wave of filmmaking process. It is an ultimate embodiment of such occurrence, for the film itself attempted to recapture the whole idea of the new wave: that is to move away from the traditional flow of a narrative and to infuse a sense of personal connection of the filmmaker to the film. The film, through the recounting of the story of a twelve year old boy seemingly lost within the daunting heights of the city of Paris, illustrated how it is to become part of an alienated post-war generation.

Even claimed by Truffaut as his alter ego, Antoine Doinel, the protagonist of the film, found himself in a very uncertain condition. The film is effective in embodying the degree by which Antoine struggles to fit himself in different kinds of institutions. In the process by which the gap between what is expected from him and what he actually chose increased, Antoine tried to define himself. As a student, Antoine is expected to obey his teacher’s orders. Immediate penalties were put into effect in case of noncompliance, without proper reconcilement of why such is being done. Consequently, as a son, Antoine finds himself in a swing of positive and negative reinforcement. First detested by his true mother and adored by his step father, Antoine experienced a roller coaster of a ride when it comes to his emotional and physical dealings with them. But just as how the film showed the confusion of Antoine’s parents as to what to do to him, Antoine was just as equally befuddled—as was represented by all his actions. Despite of that, there is a need to make an action. And as was explicitly portrayed in the film, in a particularly significant turning point in his life, he was in a continuous pursuit of his identity. The manner by which Antoine faced and managed the challenges in his early life is through trial and error. He tried a lot of things, and got punished on most cases. But getting penalized for all his wrongdoings seemed like the way by which Antoine got by himself in the end. The system of authority present in a society ultimately dictates the way by which a person’s character is shaped, ideally, for their betterment. But it is also in this film that we get to realize that it might also become the otherwise. There are those who chose to stray away from the right path, simply because that’s the only way they can make a choice. As much as we are all inclined to obey the rules, there are people who are also inclined to violate them, for reasons that it might be their only way to keep going on their lives, to remain in track. The question of whether or not we can rightfully blame those people for choosing a wrong decision is an entirely different matter. But we always have to take into account that just like Antoine, the choices we make are the effects of how we see and settle our identity with the restrains our society brings about to us. We can raise hell and pay all the consequences of a morally wrong decision—if that’s what other constitutes as their identity then so be it.


kristia said...
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kristia said...

The 400 Blows is one of the few films which are told from the perspective of a child. Directed by François Truffaut, the film features Antoine, a French boy in his early teens who is having difficulties both at school and at home. In this movie, we can see an adolescent who is trying to challenge the existing (social) order in the society. Being a minor, he is considered as someone who is still innocent and naïve. With this idea, he is expected to follow whatever his parents and his teachers are saying. Unfortunately, Antoine failed to do that. He started cutting his classes and even ran away from home. Instead of following the elders, he wanted to be independent and to start earning his own money.

Because of his deviant behaviour, can we already assume that Antoine is a bad kid? Can we consider him as an immature child who wants to grow up too fast? But before we make any judgements, it is important to consider the context that he was in. He grew up in a family wherein he was not really wanted, and his parents were always busy working. His mother even wanted to have him aborted and his “father” was just his stepfather and not his biological one. He was forced to sleep in the kitchen and he had little time to do his assignments because of his chores and the early lights out that was set by his parents. In school, he was exposed to a teacher who was unfair in treating his students. A lot of innocent students were punished for crimes that they did not do. Given this context, can we be more understanding of the actions of Antoine? Can we blame him for being rebellious if he grew up being exposed to a social order that was nowhere near perfect? Is it his fault that the people who were supposedly the ones who will guide him in this stage are not successful in doing their jobs? In the case of child delinquents then, who is to blame, the child himself, the parents or the social institutions around them?

The ideas of crime and punishment were also raised in the film. Given that Antoine was considered as a troublemaker, the people around him used different ways in order to try to correct his actions. There was a time wherein he almost set their house on fire and he was taken to the movies in an attempt to get in his good side and to try to instill to him the idea that he should not do something like that again. There was also a time wherein he was punished by his teacher by asking him to stand in one corner of the room and suspending his “privilege” of having a recess. The more extreme punishment on the other hand, was when he was sent and was forced to live at the detention center. Different ways of trying to punish someone was then featured in the film – from the mild ones to the extremely harsh ones. What is noticeable however, is that the film does not imply which among the different techniques is the most effective one. Probably, the degree of the punishment of a person just relies on the gravity of the crime committed as well as the style of the person giving the punishment.

Another question that can be raised is that, who should be in charge of punishing a child for his delinquent behaviour? Should it be his parents, his teachers, or even the state? At the same time, how should the three interact in trying to teach the children some lessons? If all three of them employ different ways of disciplining the children, there might be issues on consistency. The children might get confused if what they are doing is indeed correct or not because the three “institutions” are using different ways in correcting their actions. Lastly, up to what extent can the three interfere with the actions of the children? The children should after all be given the chance to control their lives and to even learn from their own mistakes.


rotcivcumigad said...

Part 1

The film 400 blows, a 1959 French film directed by Francois Truffaut is one of the most defining films of the French new wave particularly because it’s central them resides on a social upheaval which is the increasing number of delinquents in the youth .Next, its cinematic form, clearly a rejection of classical styles since the film clearly lacks an explanation at the end of the film. Moreover, the film contains an existentialist point of view since our main character Antoine, solicits an answer about the way society is constructed. This point therefore is my main argument throughout this essay. I shall also provide an explanation for the ending scenes of the film.

The film is a rich portrayal of a young boy, not nearing teenage years, who struggles to rid of the grasp of the different authorities of the society, in his case, the adults who painstakingly chained him to conform to the rules and accepted practices a young boy like him should follow. In the film, we saw the boy journeying to the different institutions of society, and each and every institution he tried to defy.

The first scene presented was a classroom setting where the boy was present. Obviously, the authority in this institution is the teacher. However, the boys in the classroom, most importantly our main character Antoine, refuse to obey orders and accept punishments from the teacher when told to do so. He even tried to deface school property while on punishment. Offering my point of view on his behaviour, I think what Antoine is trying to do is to dissent against practices of abuse of authority since he was punished physically on every little bit of mistake he makes.

The second institution of society focused on the film was the family. Although not abused by his parents, we can see in the film’s portrayal of Antoine’s family as lacking a favourable environment for a child of Antoine’s age to grow. We saw a bitter and challenging mother, a house of ruckus where Antoine managed to sleep it off in the kitchen, frequent bellowing and arguments from his parents and worst, a family on the brink of poverty unable to provide Antoine of his most basic needs. Thus, Antoine tired of all of his problems in school and at home tried to rebel by deciding to skip school and killing of her mother as an excuse. Antoine, in this part of his journey in the institutions of society, defied the most authority in his life, his parents.


rotcivcumigad said...

Part 2

When tired of all the problems brought to him by his family, moreover finding out that his mother was having an affair, he tried to set out in another institution of society which is the community. He defied the traditional norm that only adults can live by themselves alone so he went away from home and set out for a night in Paris, stealing food and trespassing on private properties. Thus, in this part, he tried to defy the adult community in general and attempted to prove to them that not only adults can roam the nights of Paris and commit crimes but also a child like him is capable to do such things.

Therefore, he entered a world of mischief. He was exposed to smoking, drinking liquor and to some extent prostitutes. However, it was stealing a typewriter from his father’s office that brought him to another institution of society. The juvenile correction system awakened him to the harsh treatment of the unwanted of the society like him, even for a child. He was imprisoned along with adults who committed different sorts of crimes. But when sent to a detention centre for juvenile delinquents, he found it so difficult to bear dealing with the adult authority that he managed to escape.

At the ending scenes of the film, Antoine runs towards the sea, breaking free of all the authorities in the different institutions of society, unsure to where he would go. But one thing is for certain, freedom is no at hand for Antoine. The last scene is a frozen zoomed up picture of Antoine, staring at the audience. The ending, in my interpretation does imply a certain baffling expression on Antoine’s face. As if unsure where to go and reluctant to be released from the authorities that kept him and understood him all throughout his life. The questioning look at the audience suggests that even though Antoine broke free of the authorities that caged him, he still asked for a reapproving look to us adults if his actions are right or wrong.


The 400 Blows at the Internet Movie Database
Marie, Michel. The French New Wave : An Artistic School. Trans. Richard Neupert. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2002.

Daben said...

How can a powerless child deal with the rules of an adult society? How does a child see life in his own point of view? How will a child grow when he is abused in his own community? How can a child know his role in the society when his/her parents do not even treat him/her right? These are the questions being dealt with in the 1959 film ‘The 400 Blows’ (Les Quatre Cents Coups) by Francois Truffaut.

The film is about a child named Antoine Doinel and his misadventures in the adult world. Due to the crooked power relations between the boy and the adults around him, including his parents and teacher, Antoine was driven to path of rebellion. The problem arises because of the pressure of the society for him to mature immediately to understand the things that are happening around him. Being clueless yet strong, he strived to live life the way he thinks is the best leading him to all sorts of trouble.

The home should be the first place where a child would learn how to deal with life’s problems but Antoine’s home seems to be the source some problems. He is assigned to sleep in a sleeping bag in the kitchen. He has little money to go to school compared to other children. He has no time to do his homework because the only place he can do it is in the dining table which is always busy. He openly hears his parents argue about him. He is being mistreated by his mother. He is being disciplined in an inconsistent manner, just like the once he almost burned the house because of the candle he lit on his altar and because of it his parents treated him to a movie. The most devastating for Antoine would be the fact that his mother was seeing another man.

The school is not an asylum for Antoine’s hurting and confusion either. His teachers are unreasonable in terms of punishment and rewards. The teachers are being abusive of their powers inside the classroom that injustice is the common treatment to every child. He was punished for things he did not do and he was exempted from being punished just because of an excuse. This incoherent crime and punishment system drives children, not only Antoine, into doing things incorrect just to be able to exclude themselves from being punished and because it is a pleasurable feeling, being excused from being punished, the habit of doing wrong things will be echoed over.

This puzzling system of the adults forces a child to deal with things in a different light. Can the society blame the children from being rebellious when the society the children are living in is this disorderly? Will the society blame the children for growing into a troublemaker and a problem to the community? How can the society leave its perpetuation to children who were not trained well to continue living in the society? Who is to blame – the parents, the school, the community itself, the government or the children? How can we continue living in this kind of system?

The movie does not only cater to the children. It also can be seen as the struggle of minorities in the society, trying to live their lives while also trying to be accepted by the majority. It can also be seen as a general struggle of a person in dealing with the society being small alone. The movie opened another opportunity to discuss how things are working and how things should work. It now depends on the people arguing about it to do something to change or correct the system.

Mendoza, Aldrick

Ina_Partosa said...

Angel faces hell bent for violence

- Internet Movie Data Base *

The 400 Blows is a story that tells us of the events in the life of a 12-year old child and his premature struggles against the norms that have been set for him even before he was born. It is a fictional movie with an uncanny touch of reality, not only because of the plot and brilliant acting, but also because of the issues that it involves. The film tries to show the viewers in a very subtle yet piercing way, the life’s battle of a young boy against society and norms. As we can see in the movie, Antoine tries to do his best to be part of the world that he sees while also unleashing himself but every time he does, someone or something will stop him and immediately force him back to the line. Punishment is inflicted to him by an adult (teacher, parents) for every single mistake that he does without the latter explaining why it is wrong. The classroom scenes where Antoine was caught with the pin-up of a woman and the teacher blaming another student for whistling or talking show how arbitrary rules and punishment can be in the world. These incidents show inconsistencies in life for Antoine and these make it harder for him to understand and follow rules. With no adult to set up a good example and guide him, Antoine eventually turns to himself and relies on his own judgment in the way he will conduct his life.

As the movie progresses, you will see Antoine’s alienation towards everyone; his family, his classmates, the adults around him. Everyone is preaching about goodness and discipline but no one is practising what they preach. The mother tries to tell Antoine to be a good boy but Antoine sees her kissing another man. It may not be as serious for Antoine as it should be but Antoine sees it as a “bargaining chip” to get away from his wrongdoing (not going to school).

The film raises the question of corporal punishment to kids and its effectiveness as well as the justification of juvenile detention facilities for young people to so called “keep the young criminals in line”. Should it really be that at a young age, children will be kept in a place where there is nothing but things that reminds them of their wrongdoings outside? Is it really justifiable to punish a 12-year old like Antoine, put him in prison like a common criminal, just because he tried to steal a typewriter? Is it really right to separate these young men, who, in the first place, are already alienated from society, and alienate them even more? Would it really make them more reformed if they were kept together and reminded that they are undisciplined rascals who should be punished because they went against the rules?

That is a debate that we have yet to ask ourselves. The teenage years are the formative years of a person’s life and whatever happens during those times will mold them to what they will be as an adult. If they feel unwanted and unloved, the initial reaction will be to defy convention just to get the attention of the people who don’t want them. It may also result to a “I’ll just do what I want to do because no one cares” attitude.

The film is an inspiring critic about the justice system and the idea of punishment in society. It perfectly captures the oppressive forces around society, our implicit desire to break away from these forces and our fears about what may happen if we ever do.



tinborja said...

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” –Proverbs 22:6, New International Version Bible

This was the sign at the entrance of my High School years back. Up till now, upon further visits in the school, the sign still hangs in its entire glorious splendour changing exteriorly with the design but bearing the same message of Proverbs 22:6. It did say “train up a child”- the question though is who should do the training? Was that reminder placed at the entrance of the school to remind the parents that they should train their children in whichever path they deem right? Or a reminder to the teachers and the school administration that it is with how and what they teach the child in their lessons that will lead them to the right path?

Then again, the same dilemma is faced in the film “The 400 Blows,” Director Francois Truffaut’s first feature film. Considered to be part of the French New Wave, it offers an honest observation of adolescence without trite nostalgia. Indeed, few films have captured the difficulties of childhood from the child’s perspective, and it would suffice to say that this film is one of those who captured that. Carrying a simple plot –the film gives you the feel of truth as defined in how real the film felt. What makes the film powerful though is the way that it was shot and edited such that even the tracking shots and slow pans and cinematography would convey a message to the audience as much as its title would. The 400 Blows, titled as such, is assumed to be a metaphor for the knocks that young Doinel takes in a society that has continually passed around the responsibility of taking care of him.

Indeed, given the state of our society these days, given the Bible verse above, and given the movie The 400 Blows as context, one could almost wonder if the worsening of the society in the future can be attributed to how well we socialized the young ones in our society today. In a life of a man, it is very easy to judge whether the man’s deed as an adult is good or bad based on how society dictates that which is good and that which is bad. That simple comfort of branding everyone in society as good or bad depending on how we deem levels of morality totally disregards the person’s socialization as a young child which is considered to the most crucial part of identity-building. Similar to a formless clay or as my mother would say- a blank tape that records pretty much everything that it sees and hear, a child’s training dictates how the child shall form his principles and beliefs, identities and practices, thus determining how well he could contribute to this society- if and when, it is something well that he will contribute.

Whether it be the film’s genre that the film is western in nature such that the family or societal orientation in the raising of a child is not imbibed in the film or whether this is the message that the film is trying to convey, The 400 Blows has proven to be a film subtle in its delivery of a political message at the private and personal politics of family and public institutions and society. The realism as seen in the simplicity of the screenplay and the art of the shots makes for a unique viewing experience that’s sure to leave you with a feeling of 400 blows.

bjc said...

"Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons? " - Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault

The French New Wave film, 'The 400 Blows' could be said to represent and reflect the pervading social ideas and beliefs prevalent in post-WWII France in the age of Derrida, Sartre, and Foucault.

In particular, the film deals with such themes as discipline, power and punishment that are related to Foucault's thesis that there are indeed mechanisms of control present within the various disciplinary institutions in society that take effective dominion over the individuality and freedom of each person.

Throughout the film, we can see that the main character, even in his tender youth, has already gone through and experienced how such institutions, namely the family, the school, and the prison have exerted their institutional force, or Discipline, over the young boy and thus shaping his world view, his value system, and in a larger sense his entire life.

As Foucault puts it, the idea of discipline itself similarly functions as an abstraction of the idea of power from any individual:

"'Discipline' may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a physics' or an 'anatomy' of power, a technology".

The basic premise is that there is all institutions instill fear or control over the individual- that the way society works, we are left powerless over the effective dominion of all these structures of power. Everywhere is a prison, and everyone, regardless of age, sex or class is a prisoner.

But the very end of the film leaves us to ponder, as all good French films do. We see that the main character has gone to great extents in order to escape from these institutions. This leads me to believe that indeed, maybe we aren't really at the mercy of these structures of control.

To my surprise, Foucault also believed in the same thing. Ultimately, he argues, that despite the existence of such institutions which seek to take control over our being, there lies the idea that the individual can and may choose to go against it.

"At the very heart of this power relationship, and constantly provoking it, are the recalcitrance of the will and the intransigence of freedom". Thus, Foucault provides us with a powerful model for thinking about how to fight oppression when one sees it:

"the analysis, elaboration, and bringing into question of power relations and the 'agonism' between power relations and the intransitivity of freedom is a permanent political task inherent in all social existence".

The main character finally realizes this and questions the whole point of his existence and the structures of power prevalent in society at the end of the film, and thereupon earning him his freedom.


Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon, 1977.

Foucault, Michel. "The Subject and Power." Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. 2nd edition. Ed. Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1982.

migscardenas said...

The 400 Blows or Les Quatre Cents Coups (French) is considered a breakthrough in French film cinema. Directed by Francois Truffaut, it has been associated to the French New Wave. Many elements of the New Wave was depicted in the film. It was able to display many distinctive traits of the movement. New Wave may not be formally organized but its followers were heavily influenced by it. It tried to break away from the conventional way of presenting movies during that time. Many have also incorporated social and political struggles in a medium of entertainment like the movies.

The film is presented in the point of view of the lead character Antoine Doinel who was a child. The story revolved around the struggles of Doinel as a child in Paris. He was involved in many troubles causing the people around him including his parent to think that he was indeed a troublemaker who needed to learn a lesson. The appeal of the movie lies in part to the realistic depiction of a child’s life. The actors delivered their lines without exaggeration. It is interesting to see that Paris is not all glamour and allure. There is the other side which is not usually depicted in movies. 400 Blows was able to show that side of the city.

400 Blows tackled the issue of injustice in society. Child as he was, Doinel was a victim of many injustices that happens around him. This definitely changed the way he perceived his society. His experiences at home and even in school was too much for him to handle that is why he resorted to rebellion. At a young age, he was even sent to jail. Personally, I cannot totally blame the child with that reaction. For one, he was only 12 years old. He is still very much vulnerable and immature to understand the things that happen around him. Even worse, the people who should be teaching him with the right disposition are the same people who constantly make him feel as if he was really a troublemaker. This created confusion in the mind of the child. This can also be connected to the issue of the political socialization. How you were brought up and socialized can definitely influence your idea of just and humane society. Our attitude toward politics is deeply affected by how we were taught. Indeed the society where we live can shape and influence us in many respects.

The film seems to challenge the dominant order of the society. Many of us have become very comfortable with the status quo that we are not willing to change it even if injustice and inequity are becoming worse. The Philippines is a relatively free country. We have access to the information that could help us in assessing the state of our society. We should make use of that in order to make the necessary judgment in light of the welfare of the general public. It is election time once again. This movie definitely can ignite our desire to achieve a much better nation.

louie.lisbog said...

Les Quatre Cents Coups or 400 Blows is a French saying which means “raising hell”. Thus, the movie “400 Blows” showed how a 12-year old kid Antoine has able to cause problems in his family, school and the society. It was said that this movie was made to condemn the current situation of the French society after the Second World War. This was an autobiographical movie based on the life of its director which means that this movie happened in real life.

This movie proposed the question on who is to blame on the declining levels of moral and ethical values of the society, is it the family or the state. Who has the authority to change the society? Should it come from the private sphere or the public sphere?

The family is the most basic unit of the society. It is where we first learn plenty of things like talking, walking, etc. And when we make mistakes, we receive disciplinary actions from our family members. In the case of Antoine, his parents were not really harsh in disciplining him and in fact, one time he burned the altar in their house, his parents brought him to the cinema which quite reinforces the kind of behavior that he has.

But not all the things that we learn today came from our family; this is where the state comes in through the school systems. In school, we don’t just learn things in the intellectual aspect but also socially. The school also has some right to discipline its students whenever he or she makes any wrongdoings. But in the case of Antoine, he has suffered lots of maltreatment from his school especially from his teachers.

Given these situations in the society where Antoine is living, it caused him to do things which are inappropriate like smoking and drinking at a very young age, going away from his family, stealing and many more which caused him to be one pain in the society. Who is now to blame for the creation of a kid like this?

The movie showed us that both the private and public spheres have their own flaws which affected the type of French society after the Second World War. It means that change must not only happen inside the private sphere but also outside or the public sphere. Most people blame the government for what is happening in the society. But societal shaping and re-shaping comes in two-ways. It should come from both the private (from us and our families) and the public (state).

This movie is a major blow not only from the French society but also to all societies. In circumstances wherein moral values are declining from each generation, there is really a need to develop and enhance the societal values that we have. Fostering an environment filled with good values and promoting proper disciplining techniques both in the private and public spheres will really help in uplifting societal values. It is because no transformation will ever be complete if we only learn to change and develop the inside (private) but we must learn to straighten up the outside (public).


Kathrine said...

Justice to Plato is "minding one's own business" thereby performing the function for which one is best suited and not interfering with others doing the same. In the film The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups), the definitions of justice and social justice is laid down as a subtext to the main theme of the movie of questioning the power of institutions to guide the youth. The 400 Blows not only shows the power and influence of the institutions of family, school and state, the film also tries to convey to the public the idea of justice and social justice, and whether these two concepts exist in the social structure.

First, dealing with the platonic definition of justice, it can be deduced that an individual, in order to be a just man, should perform the function for which s/he is best suited. However, it was shown in the film that the main lead is still looking for that function that he is best suited for. With this search, he falls for deeds that labeled him as a badly-behaved and naughty kid. Antoine, the boy in the film, is thereby tagged as a juvenile delinquent for the mistakes that he committed, sent to a camp for detention and rehabilitation. Superficially, we can argue that Antoine may be an unjust man – not performing the function which is best suited for him. However, it can be counter argued that it is because of his age that he is not performing what is suited for him. Being a young man permits him to search and explore for his niche in the society. With this young thirst for experience and knowledge, it will be inevitable for him to try to do various deeds that will lead him to several mistakes. With this reasoning, the role of the authority now comes in the picture.

The role of the authority- in this film, the role of the family, school and state- is given primacy in the film. The power of these institutions to mold and guide the youth is being put to the limelight. Given that these institutions guide the youth towards what is morally right, the film questions this role of guiding the youth and molding the youth to be better individuals. The film attacked these institutions by carefully and implicitly stating the fact that the definition of what is moral to these institutions is doing what is the norm and conforming to the rules dictated by these institutions, and on the larger scale, dictated by the society. Obeying these authorities meant conforming to the rules that they dictate and passively accepting everything that they tell to you. The rationality behind this authority model is that these people know more and that they already know what is morally right and wrong. However, as the film shows, these authority figures are not perfect, to begin with, to the point that they also commit blunders that are in contradiction to what they are espousing and preaching. This contradiction serves as a big slap to these institutions whereby what they teach does not necessarily entail what they live by and practice.

As an ending remark, it is fair to ask, ‘is Antoine really an unjust man- not performing the function best suited for him?’ Or can we argue the other way around that Antoine is a just man ‘minding his own business yet still looking for his niche in the society’? He minds his own business and does not get involve with the issues of his parents and the people around him; what he does is search for his niche in the society. The film opens multilayered questions as to the role of the institutions in molding the youth and the societal injustices that operates within our social structure today. The question of whether to conform or not with this society and to accept all the things that the society dictates is what the film explored and left for us to answer.

-K.V. Maxwell