The film is based on the novel of the same title by Henri Charrière. The protagonist is a young 25-year-old Frenchman, known as Papillon because of the butterfly he has tattooed on his chest, sentenced in 1931 to life imprisonment for a murder he did not commit.
Charrière has to serve his sentence at forced work in the penal colony of French Guiana, but he refuses to resign himself to imprisonment: during the 13 years of detention in one of the worst prisons in the world, all his actions will have the sole aim to seek the freedom that was unfairly taken from him.
He attempted nine escapes, which cost him several years in isolation.
A key element of the film is Papillon’s friendship with Louis Dega, a forger who tries in every way to get out of prison using means opposite to those used by the protagonist: thanks to the money he can afford, Dega attempts to obtain, with the help of his wife and a lawyer, a revision of the trial that will never come.
It is from Devil’s Island, the smallest of the Salut Islands and located off the coast of French Guiana, that Papillon manages to escape with a sack of coconuts as a raft.
Now watch the trailer; then we’ll see which points of the film I think might interest you.
“Bloody bastards… I’m still alive! “
These are Papillon’s words when he finally leaves Devil’s Island to reach, on a very poorly equipped raft, the coasts of Venezuela; words that sum up his will to live and to resist mistreatment, humiliation and all the controversies that separate him from freedom.
So, if I had to summarise the meaning of the film, I would say that it represents an extreme model of human resilience: resisting, resisting desperately to achieve one’s goal.
But that is not all.
The story is based on two characters who approach life, and the search for freedom, very differently:
I recommend this film to anyone in a difficult situation who thinks they will never make it.
Which of the two characters do you feel closest to?
Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Victor Jory, Don Gordon, Anthony Zerbe, Robert Deman, Woodrow Parfrey