He's joined by fellow Ferrara collaborator Harvey Keitel, whose country priest is tasked with holding the shameful operation together. The role of a penniless simpleton is an interesting one for Depardieu, given that his recent move to Russia was meant to help him escape the tax brackets of his native France, and the uncharitable viewer might link his embodiment of the character to his opinion of the hoi polloi. More interesting still is the decision to portray the conspirators as the collective enemy rather than the Nazi official who decrees that the 10 most influential members of the village will be executed should no one admit to the crime.
There's a rats-fleeing-the-ship vibe to their cruelty and, though the plot is ugly and reprehensible, it's also an act of desperation that Dreyer never bothers interrogating. The lighthearted tone and implicit understanding that everything will likely turn out fine help take the edge off, but also draw attention to the film's status as that loneliest of creatures: the comedy that inspires almost no laughs.