In the spring of 1941, all Jews in occupied Paris are required to identify themselves to the authorities, whereupon Jewish jeweller Haffmann arranges for his family to be sent to the "free” zone controlled by the Vichy government. He himself "sells" his business to his non-Jewish employee Mercier with the verbal agreement that the latter will return the business to him after the war. Haffmann's own attempt at escape fails however. He subsequently lives hidden in a basement and is forced by Mercier to produce jewellery for the German occupying forces. Mercier's wife becomes increasingly estranged from her husband. The two fatal raids on Parisian Jews in May 1941 and on 16th/17th July 1942 are ever-present in the background: thousands were arrested by the French police and later deported by the German occupiers to the death camps in eastern Europe.
Within the broader context of French films about those collaborators who willingly assisted the Germans in forcefully transferring the French Jews, ADIEU MONSIEUR HAFFMANN is highly interesting. Action specialist Fred Cavayé, in a work featuring French stars Daniel Auteuil, Gilles Lellouche and Sara Giraudeau, adapts here the successful play of the same name by Jean-Philippe Daguerre (the latter the winner of four Molières, the French national theatre award, in 2018) about three individuals in an acute situation of crisis in occupied Paris in 1941/42. The film proved a hit in its native France, attracting upwards of 500,000 viewers.
Text: Jörg Taszman
English: Peter Rickerby