Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Last Year at Marienbad (France, 1961)

Nine Things about the Movie Last Year at Marienbad

1. Released over 50 years ago, this movie is still considered highly controversial. Not because of any violence or sex, but because it is so odd and surreal.

2. Some critics consider this a masterpiece of cinema, both defining and defying the French New Wave movement. Other critics have put it on their list of the worst films of all time, because it’s almost impossible to understand in a logical way.

3. I’m definitely in the first group. This is one of the most gorgeously strange movies I’ve ever seen. Visually and stylistically it’s one of my favorite movies. Being deliberately shot in black & white makes it paradoxically sumptuous. The whole thing is mesmerising and dream-like.

4. The basic plot is about a man and a woman in a hotel. The man is trying to convince the woman that they met a year ago and she is supposed to leave with him now.

5. The movie jumps back and forth in time without warning - there are some scenes in the present, some scenes in the previous year, and some scenes that seem to float unanchored in any specific time.

6. None of the characters have names. Scenes are repeated in different ways with different costumes. Dialogue is repeated in different scenes. It is bizarrely self-referential.

7. There are multiple interpretations of what is going on. Maybe it’s really happening. Maybe it’s just in the man’s imagination. Maybe it’s just in the woman’s imagination. The movie demands repeated viewings to keep discovering new details.

8. Each viewer may have their own idea of what’s going on, depending on their own life experiences. It might be a romance. It might be about rape. It might be about obsession and ghosts.

9. This movie clearly was an influence on Stanley Kubrik’s movie “The Shining”, as well as the work of David Lynch.