King of Hearts

The film “King of Hearts” directed by Philippe De Broca, is a quirky and humorous comment on the futility of war and a reflection on who is more insane, the inmates of an insane asylum or the sane people of the outside world where men kill men for seemingly no reason.

This film is an anti-war allegory, set towards the end of World War I that depicts the madness of war. It clearly illustrates the futility of war through the use of humor. Charles Plumpick is a Scottish soldier who is sent to a French village to diffuse any active bombs that may have been planted by the retreating Germans. He finds the village populated by quirky villagers who are actually the inmates of a mental asylum.

They crown him the “King of Hearts” and present him with a bride and readily accept him into their midst. War is raging outside the walls of the village where death and conflict abound. The pointlessness of the war outside is made more poignant by the fantasy world inside the village walls. If insane people from a mental asylum can live harmoniously then the world at large definitely has no use for war.

The viewer is left wondering as to who is more insane, the inmates of the asylum or the warring people of the world. In this story of the madness of war, the inmates of the asylum seem more rational. The film uses a lot of symbolism to depict this strange world we live in. Even the heroine of the film with whom the hero falls in love with is a tight-rope walker, symbolizing the tight-rope that people straddle in trying to make sense out of this seemingly sane world. Quirky humor is tellingly used to drive home the point.

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The people are amiably mad but not crazy. Although they happily live out their cloistered lives, they are not unaware of the grim reality of the outside world. At one point Plumpick does try to ride outside on horseback to look for help but the people call him back. Towards the end of the film the people, weary of the game they were playing in trying to populate the village, discard the costumes they had donned and walk back into the asylum. This is a serious quiet scene where the asylum inmates reject the madness of the sane world. A chastened Plumpick also joins them, symbolically divesting himself of all paraphernalia and clothes that bind him to the sane world.

The world outside is a world without reason where men killed men. The senseless killing of wartime is illustrated when the two warring sides kill off each other in the streets of the village. The opposing forces symbolically wipe out themselves. The fantasy world inside the walls of the village with its child-like innocence and wonder further drives home the unreasonableness of the outside world where hostile warring forces are unleashing terror. The many philosophical moments in the film force the viewer to think deeply of the possibility of a world where harmony and peace reigns.

This story of the madness of war would hold true in all times and societies where it may be based. The innocence and startling wisdom of the insane also make a viewer reflect on the pressing need for a saner and more peaceful world. The film is ultimately a profound film where gentle humor is effectively used to drive home the futility of war.

References :

The Internet Movie Database. Roi De Coeur, Le (1966). Retrieved on Aug 14, 2008, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060908/

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