In a filmed interview with Dominique Nogez, Duras questioned her interlocutor’s retrospective assesment of India Song as her greatest accomplishment in cinema when she claimed that ‘Son nom de Venise c’est ce que j’ai fait de plus important au cinéma’ (Son nom de Venise is my most important film work). Whether or not spectators may share this view, the film is certainly one of Duras’s most radical works, as she pursues her destruction of representational cinema. Son nom de Venise seems to inscribe the end of desire through the filming of death and disintegration, described by Michelle Royer as ‘une esthétique de la décomposition’ (an aesthetic of decomposition). This preoccupation with decay and decomposition is reflected in the location of Son nom de Venise, since Duras returned to the crumbling palace in the Bois de Boulogne that had already provided part of the setting of India Song. (…) Apart from their shared location, India Song and Son nom de Venise also resemble each other in so far as Duras, in a move unprecedented in cinema, used the same soundtrack for both films, creating an uncanny echo effect which links the two works in the spectator’s mind. In Son nom de Venise, however, the voices and the music familiar from India Song are accompanied by a completely different visual track which destroys the images of the previous film. What is most striking about the second image-track is that it is entirely devoid of human figures, as the movement towards death, begun in India Song, is brought to its conclusion. The second film, therefore, is not so much a sequel to as the completion of the first. Whereas in India Song the frequent references to death coming from the off-screen voices are counteracted by the protagonists’ visual presence on screen, Son nom de Venise films their absence, as the camera sweeps through the empty palace, representing the deserted embassy at Calcutta mentioned in the title. —Renate Günther
4 April 1914, Gia Dinh, French Cochinchina. [now Vietnam] – 3 March 1996, Paris, France.
Ms. Duras was born in southern Vietnam and lost her father at age 4. The family savings of 20 years bought the family a small plot in Cambodia, but everything was lost in a single season’s flooding. The disaster killed her mother as a result. After high school in Saigon, Ms. Duras left Indochina to study law in Paris. As a young woman, she worked as a secretary in France’s Ministry of Colonies from 1935 to 1941, before becoming a writer. She wrote 34 novels from 1943 to 1993, and became an enduring part of Paris’s intellectual elite. In addition to her writing, she also directed about 16 films. For the film India Song (1975), she won France’s Cinema Academy Grand Prix. She claimed to have rescued French president François Mitterand during World War II, when he was a resistance fighter and remained a friend and unconditional campaigner. Her most noted novel is “L’Amant”, the story of a girl… read more