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Is Paris Burning? (1966)

aka Paris brûle-t-il?

Directed By: 
Details: 175 mins · Deutsch, French


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The film opens shortly after the 20 July plot as general Dietrich von Choltitz (Gert Fröbe) is appointed military governor of occupied Paris by Adolf Hitler (Billy Frick). Hitler believes von Choltitz will obey his order to not let the Allies capture Paris without the Germans destroying it completely (similar to the planned destruction of Warsaw).

The French Resistance learn that the Allies aren't planning to take Paris, but are heading straight for Germany instead. The two different factions within the Resistance react differently to this news. The Gaullists want to wait and see, while the Communists want to take action. The Communists force the issue by calling for a general uprising by the citizens of Paris and by attacking and occupying important government buildings. The Gaullists go along with this plan of action once it is set in motion.

Initially von Choltitz is intent of following his order to level the city. After his troops fail to dislodge the Resistance from the Prefecture of Police, he orders the German air force to bomb the building but withdraws the order at the urging of the Swedish Consul, Raoul Nordling (Orson Welles) who points out that bombs that miss the Prefecture risk destroying nearby culturally invaluable buildings such as the Notre Dame Cathedral. von Choltitz accepts a truce offer from the Resistance (conceived by the Gaullist faction), but the Communists want to keep fighting (in spite of a lack of ammunition). The truce is therefore shortened to one day and the fighting resumes.

After learning that the Germans plan to destroy Paris (the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks are rigged with explosives), a messenger from the Resistance is sent across enemy lines to contact the Americans. He implores the Allies to act and afterwards General Eisenhower gives the Free French Forces under General Charles de Gaulle the go-ahead to move on Paris.

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