Unusually lyrical Ruiz film about an impossible encounter, impossible harmony: a tragedy of closed doors. Based on the play by Racine.
Abandoning his project of filming the collected works of Racine on Super 8, Ruiz produced this remarkable piece of ‘theater on film’ in collaboration with the Avignon Festival. On screen, the absolutely remarkable actors read the text, nothing but the text, and almost all the text of Bérénice. The light modernization does not turn it into a pretext for a familiar Ruizian rebus. He opts for, simultaneously, great unity and great richness: every scene invents a new effect, a new way to play the scene, but the aesthetic of shadow and light gives it overall unity.Ruiz chose Bérénice precisely because it is the only Racine tragedy that doesn’t end in slaughter. And yet the characters are presented as specters, ‘dead souls’. This beyond-the-grave ambiance relates to an ambiguity some have detected in Racine: the possibility that the characters are already dead. If one takes play and film together, everything occurs as if the drama has already played out, and we are witness to its post-mortem re-presentation. Bérénice is about an impossible meeting, impossible harmony: a tragedy of closing doors. Ruiz’s typical intellectualism is ghosted here by an unexpected lyricism; rarely has his work attained such heights of emotion. —Olivier Curchod
Chilean filmmaker Raúl, or Raoul, Ruiz (1941-2011) was one of the most exciting and innovative filmmakers to emerge from 1960s World Cinema, providing more intellectual fun and artistic experimentation, shot for shot, than any filmmaker since Jean-Luc Godard. A guerrilla who uncompromisingly assaulted the preconceptions of film art, this frightfully prolific figure – he made over 100 films in 40 years – did not adhere to any one style of filmmaking. He worked in 35mm, 16mm and video, for theatrical release and for European TV, and on documentary and fiction features and shorts. His career began in avant-garde theatre where, between 1956 and 1962, he wrote over 100 plays. Although he never directed any of these productions, he did dabble in TV and filmmaking in the early 1960s. In 1968, with the release of his first completed feature, the Cassavetes-like Tres tristes tigres (1968… read more