When Baptiste, a mime, first lays his eyes on Claire 'Garance' Renee, he is sure he must have her. He refuses to love her until she can pledge her love to him, and with a budding actor, Frederick, also after her affections she prefers to keep her options open. She is also the only person that Lacenaire, a thief, matters to and he won't give up his affection for her lightly.
Finally, she meets a rich benefactor, Count Eduard, but cannot bring herself to love him either. As time moves on, Baptiste's life becomes more complicated as another actress, Nathalie, falls for him, so when Garance returns to his life, tragedy ensues.
Les Enfants Du Paradis is very much like a Shakespearean tragedy in the way that it places the six characters from the love hexagon in a situation that has to end badly for most of them. Jealousy soon takes over every single one of them and it finishes up with a case of who will get hurt first.
It might seem rich to place a 1945 film on the same mantle as Shakespeare, but it wouldn't look out of place if it was included in his Complete Works. Indeed, perhaps the only difference is that Marcel Carne's film is more accessible by embracing the contemporary cinematic techniques of the time.
Curiously, I did often find myself staring down towards the DVD player, wondering how much of the film had passed (often finding it just over a minute or so), but the film never dragged at all. Despite the huge length, complete with interval splitting the two halves of the film, there was never a dull moment and the storyline provided plenty of twists and turns as each character's fate was altered instantly with every decision.
A film worthy of the title 'classic'.