10 April 2018 1.54am
Last Year at Marienbad 1961
An Alain Resnais Film
I watched the whole film last night/now and found it an unexpectedly rewarding experience. Wow. Not a hard ask at all when I’ve slept well and seen two popcorn films during the day, taken the girls to soccer training and had a Thai dinner with my closest friend, Kate.
More than every it is about time and memory and the inaccuracy of what is real to one or more of us, which agrees or disagrees with someone else.
It’s a film of shades of visuals, audio and acting and narrative (which I define as meaning, it tells a story, no matter how discombobulated the delivery). It has a definite three-dimensional landscape – in the mind, or the hotel or the land, full of many different paths, corridors and doors – and psychological setting. I’m hazy about the emotional setting as it is so disconnected that I can’t determine who is genuinely, emotionally, connected to anyone else. It appears to me like it is a game without an even contest. One man keeps winning the game no matter who goes first, or whether he or the opponent take a number of odd objects or even objects.
That man is the ultimate manipulator. He is a being or a representation of a living being who always defeats his living opponents. I’m fairly certain that whoever he is, or represents, that he can’t keep the woman he thinks, or believes and acts as if, he owns.
It also has a title which I’ve always thought of in one way, ‘The Last Year at (the hotel) Marienbad – Ever’ instead of being about ‘Last Year’ at Marienbad. I don’t think Resnais was trying to be tricky with the title but I took it that there was a hotel, people went there for years and years and at some point before it closed there was a ‘last year’ at Marienbad. I thought that this film would be about the last year at Marienbad for a group of people who had been going to Marienbad for years. I never thought it would refer to what happened twelve months ago at Marienbad which impacts everything which happens this year at Marienbad.
After Nuit et brouillard (1956) and Hiroshima mon amour (1959) I feel certain that in 1961 Resnais is still intent on representing a historical fact (in his own peculiar way). The historical fact is not apparent to me. The fact, played out through a series of games, and staged scenes, appears to be about something beyond the historical atrocities we have recognized in previous films. It’s about a far more diabolical (and far more reaching) attack on who we perceive we are in this world based on how we perceive the people who we think are for us or against us.
At the end:
Man: “I came at the appointed time.”
Narrator: “The hotel grounds were laid out like a kind of French garden, devoid of tress, flowers or any kind of vegetation. Gravel, stone, marble, and straight lines marked out rigid spaces, areas devoid of mystery. At first glance it seemed impossible to lose your way. At first glance, between statues with frozen gestures and granite slabs, where even now you were losing your way forever.“