Last Year at Marienbad

Released:  1961

Cast:  Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff

Oscar Nominations:  Best Original Screenplay (Alain Robbe-Grillet)

SUMMARY:  At a luxury hotel, an unnamed man (Giorgio Albertazzi) approaches an unnamed woman (Delphine Seyrig), and tells her that they have met before.  Though she repeatedly denies ever meeting the man, he insists that they met a year earlier, in Marienbad, and had arranged to meet again (the present meeting).  He claims that the two of them fell in love, and despite the woman’s intimidating husband (Sacha Pitoeff), decided to run away together.  She continues to deny this, but neither of them are clear on the details of what really happened:  he cannot remember if the woman is really married, or where exactly they met; she seems to remember some of what he is talking about, but then forgets again.

MY TAKE:  Did you get any of that?  Yeah, me neither.  The whole movie is a big circle: repeated dialogue and situations, abrupt changes in location and dress, unintelligible shifts between past and present.  Maybe that’s what it feels like to be schizophrenic.  I should have known how this would turn out when the opening dialogue is repeated like six times before anything happens.  I have absolutely no idea what the point was, because I couldn’t tell if they really had met before, if they really ran off together, or what they decided to do about it in the present.  Frankly, I could hardly piece together the basic story elements, of which there are admittedly few.  After I got done comparing the lead actress to Jackie O, I developed a theory of my own (I had to find some way to get through this film):  they did meet a year earlier at Marienbad and had an affair, but the woman’s husband found out and shot her, gravely injuring (but not killing) her.  This drove the unnamed man into insanity, and caused memory loss in the woman.  A year later, they meet again at the same hotel.  The man believes that she has come back to him, and her insistence to the contrary (and his own insanity) mean that he floats back and forth between fantasy and reality, and is unclear on what really happened.  She, in turn, does not remember him at all, though she sometimes has flashes of memories.  What do you think?  Personally, I found it a lot more entertaining than what was actually happening on screen.  I don’t know how to explain the ending, because I don’t know what happened at the end.  I do feel somewhat vindicated in my feelings this time, because apparently this movie had a very polarizing effect on both viewers and critics:  some thought it was brilliant, while others (like me) thought it was incomprehensible.

RATING:  Crap.


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