Last Year in Marienbad

For Tim Page’s class, but I thought it poetic enough to post on my personal blog:

3 ½ stars (out of 4)

Art house films are fashion objects kept in a drawer with other charms like ivory combs and tea sets. And while we, like Alice, yearn to be old enough to appreciate them, every once in awhile there comes a film with such delicious opulence that we, carelessly, dive in. Such is Alain Resnais’ new cinema film Last Year in Marienbad.

Resnais paints a world of meaningless conversation and aristocratic theatricality for his protagonist, X (Giorgio Albertazzi.) Members of society’s upper crust are statues in manner and mean. X, the only one impervious to lifelessness, wanders in search of a woman whom he had met one year prior- A (Delphine Seyrig.) In frightening detail, he reveals the development of their first meeting, a blossoming love, biblical union, and promise to runaway together in a year. A is resistant to X’s advances and the couple engage in a layered dance of flashbacks and recreated scenes- Resnais’ shots mimicking the horrific theme and variation of the film’s minimalist underscoring. In each retelling, X loosens his grasp on the events that transpired and the film’s thin visual linearity is kicked off-track: “No, that’s not the right ending. I need you alive. Alive.”

Despite the nightmarish loss of control, Alice down the rabbit hole, there is still something simple and accessible in the way these elements flow together in Marienbad– after all, love, ill-timed, unattainable, or inconvenient, is an inextricable part of the human experience. Vulnerability and trust are fundamental in the growth of anyone fit to love and, naturally, takes time to develop. And so what we learn from Marienbad, does not come from the initial viewing of the film, but like any product from a labor of love, after many, many iterations.