There's an old saying: "In an insane world, the insane man is king."
Philippe de Broca's 1966 movie King of Hearts takes that idea and
turns it into reality. I first saw the movie back in the 70s at some
point or other; but it didn't really register with me for some reason.
The other night I caught in on late-night cable (VERY late night). And
it lifted my spirits at a time when they definitely needed lifting.
For those who haven't seen the movie, here's the set-up. A young British
soldier (Alan Bates) is sent into a French town that is scheduled to be
destroyed by the Germans. His job is to find out information and send it
back to the Allies via carrier pigeon. Once in the deserted town, and
fleeing some remaining German soldiers, he ends up running into a mental
institution. He leaves the door to the asylum unlocked as he leaves, and
soon the patients are wandering the town, making it their own, and living
out their various fantasies. Eventually they make the soldier their king
— the "King of Hearts." And the soldier falls in love with a slightly
off-beat and beautiful circus girl (a very young Genevieve Bujold).
King of Hearts doesn't depict mental illness in any realistic way, and
some may object to that. But de Broca instead uses it as a parable to
depict war as somehow even more insane than insanity.
"Our kingdom, God's kingdom, is Joy" the batty Bishop says at one point.
And it's the success of this movie that you believe him — or at least
let your heart open and believe it for a while.