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8 Movies like The Rules of the Game: Scandal in Society

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Jonny_Sweet_itcher_contributorRecently, fans of ‘Downton Abbey’ have been all a-flutter over the hugely popular period drama. But over 70 years previous, Jean Renoir used a similar subject matter to highlight certain problems in society and enthral viewers in the process. For more cinematic gems which do the same, check out ‘The Exterminating Angel’, ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’ or any of these other fascinating movies like ‘The Rules of the Game’. ~ Jonny Sweet

The Etiquette of Iniquity

Using a confusingly complicated network of love triangles and the morally questionable behaviour of almost every character in the movie, Renoir underlines the declining ethics of society as it lurches toward a war that would tear families, nations and the world asunder.

What’s more, he manages to imbue this profound insight with frantically-paced comedy and an entirely farcical storyline – all of which serve to make the alreayd powerful climax an even weightier punch.

Renoir may have been a master in his own right, but the influence he has had on others has seen a clutch of talented directors carry his torch on into the future of filmmaking. For more lessons in how to deride the decadence of so-called civilization through the silver screen, check out the recommendations below.

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Movies Similar to ‘The Rules of the Game’…

‘The Exterminating Angel’ / ‘El ángel exterminador’ (Luis Buñuel, 1962)

Shortly after the commencement of a lavish dinner party at a wealthy mansion, the servants leave without explanation and the diners soon find themselves trapped inside the house.

Though there appear to be no physical barriers to their escape, an unexplained psychological reliance on the lower class keeps them firmly rooted in position.

Similarity Match: 90%
‘The Rules of the Game’ and ‘The Exterminating Angel’ both use dinner parties as the backdrop for social commentary, but while the former verges on slapstick, the latter is far more surreal.

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‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ / ‘Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie’ (Luis Buñuel, 1972)

10 years on, Buñuel has another stab at sticking the knife into the upper classes by depicting a group of six friends (and an unorthodox bishop) repeatedly failing to organise a dinner party amongst themselves.

Drug deals, military manoeuvres and nightmarish daydreams are just some of the wacky happenings which spoil their picnic.

Similarity Match: 85%
Buñuel does it again, as ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ turns the farce of the weekend party in ‘The Rules of the Game’ into a protracted series of near-misses, implausible events and disorientating dreams.

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‘Gosford Park’ (Robert Altman, 2001)

A gaggle of aristocrats arrive at the eponymous manor for a weekend of hunting, only to find the host in a wretched mood and miserly with his money. The scene quickly changes from one of upper class frivolity to murder mystery as the guests try to work out which one of their number took the irritable man’s life.

So successful was the film that it provided inspiration for the aforementioned ‘Downton Abbey’, originally intended as a spin-off but which gained a head of momentum all of its own. The link between the two is not without its own compelling controversy, either.

Similarity Match: 75%
‘Gosford Park’ and ‘The Rules of the Game’ both share a similarly aristocratic setting for the revelations of infidelity and intrigue which dominate them – but the former is more of a whodunit than a social critique.

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‘Smiles of a Summer Night’ (Ingmar Bergman, 1955)

“He loves her, but she loves this guy right here, and he loves somebody else, you just can’t win!” Okay, so quoting Adam Sandler might not be my finest moment… but I can hardly claim I happened upon the original independently. RAZZIE or no RAZZIE, young Sandler makes a fine point: love stinks!

It appears the amorous affairs of the characters of ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’ are so entangled that even Puck would struggle to sort them out. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what they attempt to do on one eventful summer evening.

Similarity Match: 75%
Whereas the class-based love triangles of ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’ are the main point of interest, they merely serve as a metaphor for a greater theme in ‘The Rules of the Game’.

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‘L’Avventura’ (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

During a Mediterranean yachting trip, a young, troubled woman inexplicably vanishes. Though her companions begin to search for her with worry, the two who should be most concerned at her disappearance instead begin to concentrate more on each other than their absent friend and spouse.

A multifaceted masterpiece musing on the darker sides of human nature.

Similarity Match: 70%
Morals and etiquette fly out of the window in both ‘The Rules of the Game’ and ‘L’Avventura’, though the stories take place in entirely different settings and circumstances.

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‘Anna Karenina’ (Clarence Brown, 1935)

With at least 10 versions of Leo Tolstoy’s classic tale converted onto the silver screen, there has been no little debate about which of them is best. In the end, I’ve picked the 1935 version starring Greta Garbo, for no better reason than it appears to be the most famous and universally acclaimed.

In the story, Anna struggles to maintain a hold on her rigid class morals by remaining faithful to her cold and indifferent husband, all the while developing an infatuation with the irresistible Count Vronsky.

Similarity Match: 65%
While ‘Anna Karenina’ is a classic re-telling of the dangers of aristocratic infidelity, ‘The Rules of the Game’ uses such a familiar story to communicate deeper truths about the morality of man.

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‘All About Eve’ (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)

Aspiring actress, Eve, befriends aging star, Margo, and though her motives initially appear to be innocent, it soon becomes clear she is manipulatively insinuating herself into Margo’s life and attempting to usurp her success.

Similarity Match: 60%
Though the plotlines of ‘The Rules of the Game’ and ‘All About Eve’ diverge significantly, they both highlight the moral decadence of contemporary society.

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If You Like ‘The Rules of the Game’, You Will Like…

The overriding theme of ‘The Rules of the Game’ appears to be its social critique of a certain class and a certain era. Though both servants and masters are lambasted in Renoir’s masterpiece, they belong to a strata of society which he expertly exposes as rotten to the core.

While the recommendation below are far removed in terms of its temporal setting and its cast of characters, it still exposes how scandal and depravity can lurk in even the most apparently functional communities and families.

‘The Celebration’ / ‘Festen’ (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998)

A 60th birthday party celebrating the life of a successful patriarch quickly turns sour as one of his children commits suicide shortly before the event and the remaining three turn against him little by little. Revelations and scandals galore.

‘The Rules of the Game’ highlight the downward spiral of morality that led the world into WWI; ‘The Celebration’ shows that such depraved behaviour is still prevalent today.

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The First Rule of the Game Is…

… you do talk about the game. (See what I did there?!) If you know of more hidden gems – or even other established films like ‘The Rules of the Game’ that I’ve missed – get the discussion started by dropping them in the comments section below.

It’s good to talk!

I′m Jonny, an English Literature graduate who decided careers and mortgages were too mundane, and travelling, film, music and books were much more enticing. I have recently made a very comfortable nest for myself in Santiago de Chile, and on itcher Mag where I regularly contribute eloquent waffle on all manner of media.
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