Even Bresson knew that cinema isn't and mustn't be "filmed theatre". This is exactly that, in the most literal sense, Bresson's worst nightmare, but the formidable cinematography, rich in references to German Romantic painters, somewhat compensates for the lack of cinematic language.
Like so many before me, I became something of a blithe anarchist by virtue of my time spent studying the liberal arts in as outré a fashion as academia made available. So it is no small thing that Éric Rohmer, the conservative branch of the nouvelle vague, excites such adoration in me. THE MARQUISE OF O is especially special because it is pure cinema-as-plainspoken-magic. It states its case w/ regal aptness.
Marquise and Count meet nice during the latter's siege of the former's family castle. Much hilarity ensues (I keed, I keed). Seriously, was Bruno Ganz ever really that young? He and Edith Clever play the 'happy couple' at the center of this period piece set during the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Very much like a stage play, in the best sense of the word. Fine ensemble acting.
I love Eric Rohmer but wasn't certain at first that I could sit through a dry, highly staged costume drama. But I grew to like the Rohmer touches in it -- his bird's-eye-view observations on human frailties and self-imposed suffering and his journalistic approach to filmmaking. While the movie looked like a stage play much of the time, its themes connected and stirred some emotion.
This family drama in close-up feels more theatrical than cinematic--the lack of music, the limited but fabulous sets (and costumes!), the fades between scenes, the marquise's exaggerated fainting spells. The cinematography is subtly perfect, Clever and especially Ganz are great, and (call me a cynic) the plot perhaps can shed a great deal of light on the nature of modern romantic relations.
Fantastic costumes and set design--it looks like the early 19th century without a 1970s influence. The cinematography even makes the actors look smaller, as they were back then. While the plot is an excellent reminder of how much women's rights have evolved, it is creepy that the rapist is ultimately embraced (though this is in keeping with romantic notions of that historical period).
The tension between Rohmer's and Kleist's very different worldviews makes for an interesting if uneven and in my opinion not entirely successful adaptation. That being said, who ever designed ms. ganz's wardrobe needs to call me bc i think i found my new look for fall.