Thursday, 7 April 2016

I've Just Seen: Last Year at Marienbad (L'Année dernière à Marienbad) (1961)

Last Year at Marienbad (L'Année dernière à Marienbad) (1961)

Director: Alain Resnais

Resnais' aim when making Last Year at Marienbad was certainly not to entertain; rather it was to draw the viewer in a discussion with the film about the nature of memory, truth and reality. Two people staying at one of the grandest hotels I have ever seen spend time arguing over whether they know each; the man maintains they had an affair last summer, while the woman is adamant they have never met.

This is one of those films I admire far more than I enjoyed the experience of watching it. On a technical level I am in awe of Resnais' coverage, of the fluidity of editing, and his use of setting. Cuts occur as one character turns around, with the setting changing from outside to inside almost seamlessly. Alongside these cuts are languid tracking shots through the ornate hotel. There is a huge amount of mastery on show, and I can see why this film is revered.

However, the story that ties it all together borders on the insufferable. I don't really care about the predicament of the central couple, and no amount of beautiful surface is going to make me do so. The statuesque performances of the actors creates a cold veneer to precedings, though I occasionally felt Resnais was directing them with a sense of humour; only occasionally.

This is certainly a film to see if you enjoy experimental and arty filmmaking, which I do. However, I cannot see myself watching it any time soon, and would probably only do so with an interesting commentary over it.


  1. I hated this movie. Hated it. I don't know if it was the movie or my mood at the time I watched it, but this is not a film I ever plan to watch again.

    1. A completely understandable reaction. I kept waiting to suddenly hate it, but trying to figure out how Resnais filmed it all held me in (just).

      As you said in your review, this type of film is why people think French cinema is arty-farty (along with Godard and others) and full of itself.

  2. I wonder if this experiment would have improved had it only lasted half an hour. It seems to me to be repeating the same themes over and over again and is more like a tableaux than a proggressive story. As it is I think it overstays its welcome.

    1. Yes, brevity would have elevated this even further. And it isn't even a long film!

      Thinking about it now, it does feel like those indulgent ads for perfume, and wine; all surface with no great substance.