Friday, 11 July 2014
Character Profile: Lieutenant Fontaine
From the moment we first meet Fontaine, we can tell he is a determined man who doesn't want to take any crap from the Nazis. Many of his fellow prisoners are more willing to submit but there is no way he plans to let them win. Every moment he's always looking for some sort of opportunity, as established right at the beginning.
In the very first scene we see him carefully studying the car he is being transported in. He quickly notices the door is unlocked, and he waits for his opportunity, which comes when the car is forced to stop. He is quickly recaptured but he hardly regrets making the attempt to get out.
When at the prison, Fontaine is a bit more pessimistic, but he is still willing to take an opportunity when it comes. He sees a chance to get word of his capture through a group of men who seem to wander around the courtyard. He has no way of telling if he can trust them or not, but there really is no other option and so he has no choice but to risk exposing valuable information. Fortunately, that risk pays off and the man turns out to be trustworthy.
Of course, Fontaine is still human, and we see that he quickly forms connections with other prisoners. During his first few days in prison he becomes close friends with another prisoner, one he never even sees or speaks directly to, and he is clearly upset when he learns of the man's execution. Later on he is able to interact more directly with other prisoners and makes several friends. This ultimately works in his favor as many of those friends provide him with the necessary materials to plan his escape.
As determined as Fontaine is, he is still not immune to fear or any anxieties you might expect to fall upon someone in his predicament. Throughout the movie he has to deal with the strain of not knowing what's going to happen to him. Even after he's told he is sentenced to face a firing squad, he still has no idea when it's going to happen. The best he can do is figure out the right time to leave and hope the execution doesn't happen before then.
As if that weren't enough, he also has the added stress of an inmate named Jost, who he may or may not be able to trust. By the time Jost arrives he's mostly ready to go, but understandably has trouble dealing with what to do about his inmate. The solution he arrives at is to find out as much about Jost as he can and then force him into a position where he has to help. Ironically of course, Jost turns out not only to be more trustworthy than Fontaine thought but also ends up being essential to the escape's success (there is one wall which required two people working together to get over).
What makes Fontaine such an interesting character is in how he still manages to persevere and never truly gives up. He has his darker moments, his fears, and times where he isn't sure he'll succeed, but he never willingly submits to his captors. It should hardly come as a surprise that he should have this attitude, considering he was a member of the French resistance, it makes sense that even when captured he'd still resent the Nazis.
Being a member of the resistance, Fontaine is naturally very resourceful, finding clever ways to take advantage of his circumstances. He notices little things that might otherwise have been overlooked, such as the flawed design of the doors that made it possible to dismantle them piece by piece without being noticed, using a spoon he hid during one of his meals. This talent is established early on as well, where once Fontaine has access to a safety pin is able to easily slip out of his handcuffs and put them back on as soon as a guard comes his way.
In the long run, Fontaine's determination and his resourcefulness go a long way. Not only does he manage to remain one step ahead of his captors but manages to make and escape that at first seemed impossible. He manages to think of just about every problem he could see coming from his cell, and ultimately also shows that he can think on his feet, figuring out how to deal with other problems even if his own consciousness made it hard for him to face the likelihood that he would have to commit murder to succeed.