The film The 400 blows, is the debut film of French director Francois Truffaut. The film was released in the year 1959 in France and it received numerous awards at different film festivals, including at the Cannes film festival and at the Palme d’Or film festival.
The main character in the movie is a young trouble boy named Antoine who lives in France with his mother and his stepfather. Antoine gets frequently into troubles at school and he has a tough relationship with his teachers and his peers, often getting into conflict and having physical fights with his classmates.
Gradually, the movie reveals that Antoine is not the only one to blame for his behavior. Towards the end of the film, the viewer is let to know that Antoine knows that the man married to his mother is not is biological father, that he was raised by his grandmother for a big portion of his childhood because his mother was unable to take care of him and that his mother wanted to get an abortion after she found that she was pregnant with Antoine and that Antoine was frequently let alone to do as he pleases because his parents were seldom home.
Despite having as its main character a young boy, the film is filled with mature themes and motifs. Antoine feels abandoned by his family and he often tries to find comfort in his friends rather than at home. In fact, the relationship Antoine has with one of his classmates is stronger than the relationship he has with his own parents. Antoine longs to see Rene, his best friend, more than he wants to see his own mother and Antoine is more affected by the fact that Rene was not allowed to visit him than the fact that his father refused to go and see him.
Among the other themes tackled in the film is the idea that the children have no form of liberty, being controlled by the school system in an almost tyrannical way and the discovery of one’s sexuality. Despite the fact that the majority of the characters are children, they have a clear image about sexuality; when Antoine sees his mother kissing another man, he knows that she is cheating on his father and sleeping with the other man.
The film was well received by the audience, wining numerous awards and also being included in the top ten British Film Institute’s list of films to watch before the age of 14.