l’Année dernière a Marienbad (1961) Bluray DVD and digital download

September 18th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Alain Resnais; Cast: Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff; France/Italy 1961, 94 min

Alain Resnais co-founded the Nouveau Roman movement in the early 1950s going on to win the Palme d’Or with this stylishly somnambulist drama scripted by Alain Robbe-Grillet.

In a splendid Bohemian villa, gorgeously attired guests are enjoying an  languorous cocktail party. A young woman (Delphine Seyrig) is approached by a man (Albertazzi), who wants to elope with her. Apparently they met at the same place the previous year, had an affair, and she let him to believe they would run away together. But this woman is already spoken for by another lover (Pitoeff) who tries to intervene, without success.

The setting is luxurious, treasures and works of art dominating every shot, but the sinister organ music by Francis Seyrig references the doom that lies ahead. Our elegant couple sashay around languidly as if intoxicated by the allure of their sublimely dreamlike surroundings, the enigma of their relationship echoing all around as they ignore the world outside. This soigné world of treasures and culture would soon go up in flames, like the victims of the holocaust.

Resnais filmed at Schleissheim and Nymphenburg castles, built by Ludwig II the King of Bavaria not far from the former Concentration Camp Dachau. The actor Françoise Spira (who would commit suicide at the age of 36), used her 8mm camera to capture “the shooting of Last Year in Marienbad“. Among the material (lost for many decades), where shots of the actors and crew visiting the remains of the concentration camp. Whilst Spira did not shoot inside the camp, her images show the complete indolence of the German population living nearby, who were completely unfazed by the mass murder happening in their midst. When the 8 mm material was re-discovered, German director Volker Schloendorff (who had been a mere second-assistant director during the shooting of Last Year), re-edited the material and added a commentary. The historic implications are clear. Resnais and DoP Sacha Vierny tried to re-create the shots of their famous documentary Nuit et Brouillard. And whilst Resnais’ contemporary comment (“Could I direct this feature whilst the Algerian War was going on?”) reflects his way of of thinking, the highly-stylised pre-WWII atmosphere in Europe not only dominates throughout the drama but reflects on Resnais’ own role as a pure connoisseur of culture when he arrived in Paris in 1940. He was a by-stander during the German occupation, until visits to Austria and Germany “left me no chance, and it became clear why the faces of the French police during the deportations where eradicated  in films and photos”.

Far from being an artificial work of art for the sake of it, Last Year is very much in line with Resnais’ output of the time, set between Hiroshima mon Amour (1959) and La Guerre est Finie (1966). WWII and The Spanish Civil War are shown from a personal angle, and Last Year is really a study of denial and ignorance, which would lead to the outbreak of both the conflicts. The gorgeous aesthetic – however hypnotising –  it is a metaphor for the apathy of a world which is about to be obliterated. AS



New: ‘RESNAIS and ROBBE-GRILLET – The wanderers of imagination’

Interview with Film Historian Ginette Vincendeau

2 short films by Alain Resnais: ‘THE STYRENE’S SONG’ and ‘ALL THE MEMORY OF THE WORLD’

‘In the Labyrinth of Marienbad’

Restored Trailer

BD only: Documentary on Alain Robbe-Grillet



Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia