I haven’t seen The War is Over.
Shame you don’t like Marienbad. It really didn’t ‘get me’ until the moment where it repeatedly trucks in to the woman at ever increasing speeds while her figure goes from embracing to horrified and the male voiceover shouts, “NO! I DIDN’T! I’M NOT CAPABLE OF THAT!” and I realize that one of the (many) narratives underlining the production is that this may be a meeting between a victim and her rapist, where she blocked the memory out and he’s trying to revise it to justify himself.
Shame on you. Trying to solve the puzzle of Marienbad.
I got that part, I got the whole idea that the viewer is left to decide what kind of relationship these people had. I ultimately did not like it because to me, the concept was taken so far that these people were reduced to being ideas instead of people. I guess that was the point with “A” and “B” and “K” and whatever but to me, it’s like I’m watching placeholders for humans and scenarios instead of experiences. It just left me way too cold and in a place much too intellectual for my liking.
I wanted to like it, I truly truly tried to like it since I love Hiroshima, but I just had to be honest about it in the end. I did like that one spooky guy (the husband) who plays the take away game and always wins. God what a creep that man was.
“Shame on you. Trying to solve the puzzle of Marienbad.”
I didn’t say that’s what the movie was about, but that it’s one of the things it is about. Or as Pastuch sez,
“the viewer is left to decide what kind of relationship these people had.”
And in response to the next line,
“I ultimately did not like it because to me, the concept was taken so far that these people were reduced to being ideas instead of people.”
There is ultimately a lot more humanity in it than just a ‘game of the mind’ piece. Underlying the movie regardless of your individual reading of specific narrative details is a massive post-war anxiety, the same anxiety that underlines Hiroshima Mon Amour. This is the era where pretty much everything Resnais is making is mindful of the atomic bomb and the Holocaust. That makes it more than just an intellectual exercise, but a confrontation of the rules (including narrative rules) of a world where people feel fit to justify killing in such great numbers, and sometimes use narratives (propaganda, et al) to enable that justification.
It’s a very ‘mature’ movie in the sense that it’s building off of visual practices started by such movements as the Surrealists and the Dadaists, themselves reactionary filmmakers of the post-WWI era. It’s a lot more structural and a lot more sober, though I don’t want to claim its entirely without a sense of humor.
And even without the historical anxiety element I’m describing, it does push forward the trend toward abstraction enabled in the visual arts by the construction of photography and motion pictures in the first place, so there’s that. That area is where I will agree that this can be seen as coldly intellectual. But I’m down with abstraction, personally, so…
I liked your comments on Hiroshima. It makes me want to see it again, especially since I didn’t really “get” the film. Ironically, your criticisms against Marienbad are sort of my criticisms against Hiroshima. The characters don’t seem like real people, and your recent comments suggest that they represent certain ideas and themes (which I didn’t notice, nor would I have be able to view the film that way when I saw it).
My sense is that French films around this period often used characters in this abstract, cypher-ish way.
In fact in some sense seeing what I’ve seen of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s subsequent work, his ideas are more procedurally abstract and mind-game in style, Alain Resnais’ is the more primal cry of horror stuff. They both did a little bit of both though. The result of this collaboration is unlike anything else, which is both remarkable and unfortunate because I’d really like to see other movies ‘like’ Marienbad but Marienbad is unique.
Jazzaloha, I also saw the people in Hiroshima as sort of ciphers during my last viewing. I was thinking “This is just melodramatic tripe, why did I like this?”.
But then, I somehow have been ignoring that great scene with the woman when she washes her hair in the sink: she just about says as much. And another clue is when she completely loses herself in the tea room and the man has to smack her back to reality. There is some very great sound design here and in fact in the entire film: I had never quite noticed the excellent placement of train sounds throughout the entire background of the film. Cars, musical horns, footsteps, running water- the sound is excellent.
So yeah, while I always saw the film as two people kind of trapped within the memories of their past, I never quite saw it as them almost totally isolated from their real world surroundings. The scene where she nearly gets lost in the peace parade, the restaurant scene, the scene with them walking along a deserted street (framed so it looks like the man is haunting her).
Here are two people so helplessly, melodramatically trapped inside the concept of this woman (the woman herself and the man are both trying to “relieve” this abstract memory) as well as within the concept of the Hiroshima bombings- that’s what the beginning is all about.
Resnais and Duras take the idea of a “mass memory” of a big event in history and move to the small, human side of it and it basically becomes very bizarre. I never quite got the tone of the latter parts of the film, and now I kind of do.
@Polaris- what you say about Resnais and “primal cry of horror” also applies to this. Because if all of the melodrama and screaming and flipping out in Hiroshima had taken place in say, a Bergman film, it would not seem so out of place and actually quite natural. I think that’s what makes the film feel so weird, it starts off with two seemingly reasonable people musing about Hiroshima and its consequences and then they start actually living the memories of their youth to the point where they’re both hysterical.
“it starts off with two seemingly reasonable people musing about Hiroshima and its consequences and then they start actually living the memories of their youth to the point where they’re both hysterical.”
“You are Paris, and I am Hiroshima.”
Yeah I was going to add that at the end of my post but I deleted it- the ending was way too on the nose. It’s kind of comical how she says HI-RO-SHI-MA. I mean, we understood it by watching the film.
These two people WANT to live in their tragedies-…
One of Resnais’ themes was: to move forward, we must ‘forget’ the past and yet, the past must remain, as part of who we are. It is a theme that allows the film to have a universality, which keeps it fresh and undated. (The theme is also found in Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.) Memory, collective of individuality, effects everyone’s ability to take and idea into the world – that theme effects everyone.
That existential theme would certainly be something Duras struggled with in her artistic and personal life.
The film only just missed the critics’ top 10 in the 1962 Sight & Sound poll, having made a huge splash at the time, as did Breathless and L’Avventura. Now it is not even in the top 100. How are we to account for this decline? Is it suspicion of elegance, beauty, intellect?
There’s only so much room in the top 100. But I also think that in general Resnais has become less popular and Rivette has become more so, in terms of attention to the French New Wave.
Later Resnais films have not been such landmarks and probably of mixed quality, but i think films should be judged on merit, not devalued by later standards or overall auteurist ranking. For instance i love some early Wenders as much as ever, despite later failures. Certain styles also come and go with fashion. I’m happy for Rivette to get attention, though- and i prefer him to Resnais too.
“How are we to account for this decline? Is it suspicion of elegance, beauty, intellect?”
It’s not been on the top 10, so people don’t watch it as much, so people vote for it less, so ….
But also, some of what I said about post-war anxiety and atomic age stuff is necessary too, because society isn’t really feeling as existentially threatened by nuclear threat as it was just after the two bombs went off. That’s opening up a whole other can of worms over whether or not society ‘should’ be feeling as threatened (it’s always a danger, really), but nevertheless the whole concept itself may not be as engaging to modern audiences.
Sadly but as Robert Peabody points out, maybe that’s the point?
How ’bout it guys, thread about a list of movies that are purposefully designed to be forgotten?
John said, Here are two people so helplessly, melodramatically trapped inside the concept of this woman…
But they seemed more like artificial constructs—ciphers, as we mentioned. So the poignancy or melodrama just didn’t work for me. But I was used to this style of filmmaking when I first saw the film, so maybe if I see it again, I will change my opinion.
Kenji said, “How are we to account for this decline? Is it suspicion of elegance, beauty, intellect?”
Just a thought—relating to my comment above: maybe the approach to the characters hasn’t aged well?
Sounds intriguing, but no films come to mind immediately. I’m thinking of Hollywood fluff—but I don’t think they’re intentionally designed to be forgotten—just not designed to be remembered, perhaps.
They didn’t seem like ciphers to me because they aren’t necessarily melodramatic from the start, and even then they go through a wide range of emotions, especially the man. When they’re chatting in bed in the beginning or in the man’s empty house, they were acting fairly calm and natural. And again, the scene towards the end in the Casablanca bar, where they stare at each other seems to hint that they realize how trapped they are in each other. The man also goes from being overjoyed with her to hating her over and over again.
I mean, at the end of the film, they basically admit they’ve become ciphers, ideas. They basically no longer exist as actual humans, but a collection of ideas and cliches for someone else. But it’s not as literal as in Marienbad: here in Hiroshima they’re two humans that realize what they’ve become, and they react to it. It’s hard to catch on the first few viewings, as it was for me, because there is this big romantic love story at the forefront.
But for me, at the end, both characters realized it makes no difference whether or not she stays. They will never see each other more than placeholders, ciphers for their own memories. Memory vampires. Ridiculous people. They realize how ridiculous they are.
The creepy part about it is the last couple of lines and the way they’re delivered. She seems a bit astonished and horrified by this fact. Yet the way the man delivers it, he seems pretty much OK with it. Like Scotty in Vertigo “Yes, you will be Nevers in France. So what’s the problem?” Again, his expression of emotions is what keeps the two characters from just being ciphers completely. He’s so relentless through the whole movie, he becomes SO happy when he realizes she has told her big secret ONLY to him.
I don’t know about the approach to the characters not ageing well. Maybe the strange formality, if not (Brechtian distancing) absurdity, of their spoken interactions may make them feel like ciphers for intellectual ideas. But questioning reality and subjectivity, along with themes of time, memory (collective and personal), nuclear power, war, love, patriotism, cultural interaction, fate, individuals caught up in and responding to major events, seem relevant and important as ever. And the pain of Emmanuelle Riva- the Nevers passages are tremendous- comes through very strongly. When visiting the Loire or seeing it in Straub-Huillet’s excellent L’Itinéraire de Jean Bricard recently, i was bound to remember her and Sacha Vierny’s beautiful cinematography.
An interesting Senses of Cinema article i just came across on the “left bank group”, including Hiroshima mon amour