(aka "The Mayor's Dilemma" )


directed by Raymond Bernard
France 1939


Made on the eve of the Second World War, and looking back to 1914, Les Otages (literally, The Hostages) explores the crisis that arises when a French village is overrun by the German army. Raymond Bernard mixes humour and an unashamed propaganda message into a story of heroism in unexpected places. As in his great masterpiece Les Miserables (1933), Bernard uses expressionistic techniques of dramatic lighting and slanting camera angles to heighten the sense of danger and moral disorientation.

The screenplay, co-written by Jean Anouilh, caused problems for both French and German censors, the one finding it too ironic in its depiction of French patriotism, the other seeing too much weakness in the portrayal of the German officers. The restored edition on this DVD has been assembled from two differently-censored prints and is believed to represent the complete film in its intended form.

Michael St Aubyn

"What I wanted to do with Les Otages was to place six typically French individuals in a typically French village. Show their petty lives, their petty worries, their petty hatreds, their petty ambitions. And then subject them to the great collective drama of war."       Raymond Bernard




Theatrical Release: April, 1939

Reviews    More Reviews    DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Les Documents Cinématographiques - Region 0 - PAL

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:




Les Documents Cinématographiques

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:41:27 (4% PAL speedup)

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: unknown mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Audio French and German (mono)
Subtitles English, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Les Documents Cinématographiques

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• French documentary about film's history, with optional English subtitles (65:16)
• French featurette about the historical context, with optional English subtitles (21:06)
• Bilingual (French and English) packaging and menus

DVD Release Date: January 4th, 2005
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 24




No complete print of Les Otages is known to exist. For this region-free progressive DVD edition, the film has been reconstructed from two censored copies, one French, the other Swiss-German. Fortunately for us, the censorship in each case was substantially different, allowing the restorers to piece together the complete film using Raymond Bernard's shooting script as a guide.

The French and Swiss elements each show moderate levels of grain and damage, but are of comparable quality, so the transitions are not too jarring. However, one unavoidable problem is that the segments from the Swiss copy have German subtitles that are ingrained on the image. When the player-generated optional English subtitles are activated, a semi-opaque black box is used to dim the German subtitles (if present) so that they do not distract the viewer. See the final capture below for a sample of this.

An interesting hour-long documentary on the disc (in French, with optional English subtitles) discusses the making of the film and its censorship and restoration. A second interview featurette, also with English subtitles, talks about the historical context.

Overall, a very commendable release from one of the more English-friendly French publishers. The Amazon.fr Marketplace link above allows you to order from the DVD's French distributor Zalys.

 - Michael St Aubyn


DVD Menus


Screen Captures

Subtitle sample



















Example of player-generated English subtitles overlaid on ingrained German subtitles





DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:




Les Documents Cinématographiques

Region 0 - PAL


Hit Counter












DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

Mail cheques, money orders, cash to:    or CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Thank You!