Last week saw the release of Gimme the Loot, the SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner by Adam Leon, which sees two graffiti artists seek revenge after their replica of the…
If a trip to the theatre means an escape into another world, or another life for you, Last Year at Marienbad may not be the trip you should take. On the other hand, if you view film as a springboard for intense debate or long discussions on its meaning, this may be your best opportunity. Directed by Alain Resnais, Last Year at Marienbad is the story of A (Delphine Seyrig) and X (Giorgio Albertazzi). When they bump into each other at a hotel, X is convinced that he and A shared a romantic encounter a year earlier, but A has no memory of this. While X attempts to stir the memories of A, M (Sacha PitoÃ«ff), A’s possible husband or lover, continually stops them from igniting any passion they may, or may not, have had.
Almost the entire film is narrated by X as he tells A where she was and what they had done the year before. A continually tells him that can’t be, and viewers are left wondering what really happened. Eventually, it seems that X can’t even remember what happened, or he doesn’t want things to go they way they did. He changes his mind, offers alternate ideas and memories, and even seems to change history itself. While the story he offers may differ from time to time, the actual events happening are open to an endless amount of answers.
X represents death for A while M is there to bring her back to life. Perhaps X is a psychologist and A is his patient. Everything is happening in the mind of X, or the mind of A. Really, there is no right or wrong answer, which makes for a very interesting conversation after the film, but it doesn’t make for a typically entertaining film. It’s a riddle with no answer, but one that will fit into any answer. Much like our opinion on film, everybody comes to their own conclusion, and all of them are equally valid. That’s an admirable quality for a film to have.
Nothing excites a cinephile like a rousing discussion following a screening. A meeting of the minds where each member analyzes what they have just witnessed, each tearing down, or building up, another persons opinion until they’re left agreeing to disagree. The problem with Last Year at Marienbad is that the audience must be completely willing to accept an experience that can be extremely frustrating.
Characters change clothing or position in the middle of sentences. The scenery can switch just as fast. One moment X and A may be alone in the garden, suddenly they’re in a bedroom. Background characters will stand almost completely still until they suddenly begin interacting with each other. Viewers will see two people talking but hear a different conversation taking place. It’s almost impossible to truly grasp what is going on, and even more difficult to follow the timing of events. Like a visual thought process, or a dream come to life, Last Year at Marienbad is more entertaining to talk about than it is to actually watch.
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