Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Army of Shadows (1969)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Army of Shadows (1969, Fr.) (aka L'Armée des Ombres)

In Jean-Pierre Melville's grim, unsanitized and dark war drama about the true-life exploits of underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied (Vichy) France:

  • the devastating pre-title credits opening sequence - a gloomy view of a regiment of German soldiers (led by a drum and bugle corps) marching in front of the Arc de Triomphe and then sharply turning right onto the deserted Champs-Élysées and moving straight toward the camera and filling the frame - before the camera shot froze - to emphasize the frightful sight of the Nazi occupation
  • the tense escape scene of bespectacled, middle-aged civil engineer Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) from Gestapo headquarters in Paris after knifing a guard in the neck; afterwards, he took refuge in a barber shop where he received a shave from the barber (Serge Reggiani), and worried about being turned in (or having his throat slit with a straight-edged razor) as he heard sounds from the street of Germans looking for him
  • the harrowing, lengthy inhumane silent execution sequence in which Resistance members in Marseilles, led by Gerbier, were assembled together to semi-reluctantly carry out a death penalty on traitorous and condemned youth Paul Dounat (Alain Libolt); in front of their agonized prisoner, the group debated the method to be used to kill him - deciding on strangulation to not alert neighbors; Dounat was a former comrade and Resistance follower who had turned informant on Gerbier and betrayed them; young novice Resistance recruit 'Le Masque' (Claude Ullmann) was forced to participate as was Felix Lepercq (Paul Crauchet); during the silent strangulation scene using a tea towel and twisting stick garrotte, 'Le Masque' held the gagged Dounat's legs, Gerbier held the boy's arms, and Felix tightened the noose
  • the concluding scene of the Parisian street assassination of Mathilde (Simone Signoret), the brave and fearless matriarchal Lyons housewife (with one fatal flaw - carrying a photo of her daughter) who supported the efforts of the Resistance; fearing Mathilde would talk under pressure, Jardie and his team in a car pulled up next to her on the Paris sidewalk where she was walking - she was shot twice by burly Resistance veteran 'Le Bison' (Christian Barbier) and left to die on the street
Parisian Street Assassination of Mathilde
(Simone Signoret)
  • the film's ending included text screens documenting the fate of the four remaining Resistance leaders, whose car was detained by the Nazis near the Arc de Triomphe in the final shot - each shown briefly: 'Le Masque' (suicide by cyanide capsules), 'Le Bison' (decapitated by axe in a German prison), leader Luc Jardie (dead from torture), and Gerbier (who decided this time he wouldn't run)

Marching at Arc de Triomphe

Barber Shop Escape

Silent Execution Scene

Fate of Four Other Resistance Leaders - Their Detained Car near Arc de Triomphe


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z