How has The Grand Illusion held up over the years? It is not enough to say that it has retained its power. Not only has the stature of the film remained undiminished by the passage of time (except in a few minor details), but the innovation, the audacity, and, for want of a better word, the modernity of the direction have acquired an even greater impact.
The essential factor in the transition of the baroque to photography is not the perfecting of a physical process... rather does it lie in a psychological fact, to wit, in completely satisfying our appetite for illusion by a mechanical reproduction in the making of which man plays not part. The solution is not to be found in the result achieved, but in the way of achieving it.
All the arts are based on the presence of man, only photography derives an advantage from his absence. Photography affects us like a phenomenon in nature, like a flower or a snowflake whose vegetable or earthly origins are an inseparable part of their beauty.
Today we can say that at last the director writes the film. The image--its plastic composition and the way it is set in time, because it is founded on a much higher degree of realism--has at its disposal more means of manipulating reality and of modifying it from within. The film-maker is no longer the competitor of the painter and the playwright, he is, at last the equal of the novelist
The photographer proceeds, via the intermediary of the lens, to a point where he literally takes a luminous imprint, a cast... [But] the cinema realizes the paradox of moulding itself on the time of the object and of taking the imprint of its duration as well.