Last Year at Marienbad

There are some people who love surrealism. Salvador Dali paintings are something you lose yourself in. You like Un Chien Andalou. You have seen Un Chien Andalou. Then, there are people who don't like this style at all. I can understand it. Surrealism doesn't really give you very much to work with. You have to sort of give to it, to make it have meaning for you. I am one of the people that likes surrealism. I think that my strange dreams work better as movies (and sometimes I write them down as scripts in this delusion) than screenplays I spend time and effort creating. Naturally, I liked and was intrigued by Last Year at Marienbad, directed by Alain Resnais in 1961.

It would be a crime for me to sit and try to summarize the plot, as if it really matters too much. It's obvious from the first few minutes of the movie, when the narrator keep repeating his dialogue, that the plot isn't going to matter. There is not going to be a story or a neat ending that wraps anything up. It will just be a puzzle and a visual carnival. I'm sure there is much analysis and meaning and thinking that can be done about this movie. Unfortunately,with the beginnings of another very special migraine and 9 hours of work, I'm not sure I'm in a state of mind to go there. There is just something hypnotizing and incredible to me about surrealism. I cannot name it, half of the time. I don't know why I feel so enchanted with it. I just do. It works for me.

I thought the narration was one of the most interesting parts of the film. It could change the way you see the whole move. Is the narrator saying what happened already, or is he controlling the action? It seems like everyone reacts after he speaks. There is a scene where the woman (the characters do not have names) is standing over the strange garden of triangle trees that never have shadows. The narrator observes how he once saw her standing there, at an angle, one arm on the stone banister. In the scene, she is at first standing straight with her arms at her sides. Then she changes. Was she always standing like that, or did she shift after the narrator spoke? There are many scenes like this, and I love that you can basically change the whole movie by just shifting your perception a little bit.

I can't really recommend this movie, though. Anthony slept through the entire thing because it is French and black and white and nonsense. My mom came to ask me what I was watching during a scene where the bizarre organ music drowns out the dialogue, and the characters just walk around, their mouths moving but no sound coming out. She turned to me and let out a little gasp, like I was going to say something was wrong with the DVD. I don't think there are many people who consider movies like this a good time. It's everything you hate about film or art school, I guess, but done way better. Which still is torturous and inane for most people. It's not a bad thing. Some people love it, and they can sit and watch a bunch of weird imagery and love the feeling that it gives them. And some don't - it's just personal preference, not a measure of it you are some sort of artist or intellectual or something, despite what others may say. Just like how I know I'm not an annoying pretentious hipster just because I like it.

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Last Year at Marienbad


The Lady Eve