Last Year at Marienbad

“Once again I walk, once again, along these corridors, across these salons, these galleries, in this edifice from another century, this huge, luxurious, baroque hotel . . .” The incantatory voice-over that introduces Last Year at Marienbad could be the voice of Sacha Vierny's camera as it travels through time, past the statues and statuesque beings-in-time that pass for characters in this masterpiece of widescreen mise-en-scène. Some critics have interpreted Marienbad's labyrinthine gardens as a dreamscape, others as a landscape of the mind, which rejects cause and effect. Still, why not take it at face value? The plot involves the attempt of one man to convince one woman that, a year ago, they met and fell in love at a European spa, perhaps Marienbad, where they are now. The seamless integration of past and present is central to Resnais's films, but, as author-screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet said, “The image is always in the present tense.”

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