For Marienbad, I was the author of the treatment, the screenplay, and the shooting script, and Resnais was the director. I wrote alone and Resnais shot alone, for I had returned to Istanbul to work on L'Immortelle, the revolution having subsided and a new contract having been worked out with the new government. It involves making that possibility real, bringing it into being.
After it was completed, Marienbad remained in cases for more than six months without anyone trying to bring it out because the distributors felt it was too bizarre. It was not even shown to owners of movie theaters. But through a series of other coincidences that were more political than cinematic, it was shown at the Venice Film Festival after those six months and received the Golden Lion Award.
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Subsequently, it was distributed in France and Italy and was immediately successful for its snob appeal. For six months it was damned, and suddenly it became stylish. AR-G: L'Immortelle had a completely different career. As soon as the film was finished, it received the Louis Delluc Prize, the highest French prize awarded to a filmmaker. When the film came out a month later, it received bad reviews and was not well accepted by the public. L'Immortelle was unfavorably compared to Marienbad, while in fact they do not resemble each other at all.
It is obvious that L'Immortelle is not as good as Marienbad, but the real error is to compare them in the first place. I wrote Marienbad for Resnais. In Marienbad, Resnais executed many complicated camera movements, but I wrote these movements for Resnais based on my knowledge of his short films, such as The Entire Memory of the World. By contrast, in L'Immortelle, there is no camera movement, or almost none. In Marienbad there exist some elements that you can refer to as sequences, but in L'Immortelle it is much harder to differentiate the sequences because they are mixed.
In fact, the project for L'Immortelle, which is extremely ambitious, perhaps too ambitious, consists of considering as the unit of narration not the sequence but the shot. At the beginning, the spectator sees a series of shots that succeed each other but not in narrative progression.
These shots have merely formal relationships between them -- for example, a framing or a movement of the character or a small movement of the camera, which are not narrative elements at all. This kind of montage is much closer, obviously, to the first silent films of Eisenstein than it is to Marienbad.
I say that L'Immortelle was perhaps too ambitious because the viewer does not readily identify these elements, yet they are the basis of the film's continuity. Nowadays when a retrospective of my films is presented, often L'Immortelle seems to be the most prestigious, but it is also the film that at the same time draws the fewest spectators and seems to be the most disappointing for the audience. This formal ensemble of shots nevertheless tells a story, but it is an extremely rigid story, not very realistic, even less realistic than Marienbad. For example, the main character lacks the features of a film hero; he looks more like a narrator.
He always seems a little stiff. He is on the screen, but one almost has the impression that he would rather not be there. In fact, much more than in Marienbad, in L'Immortelle everything takes place in the character's mind. Therefore, he is, in a way, superfluous to the image. Critics were shocked that he did not seem to move normally, that he did not seem to be able to touch the actress, as if he were not really in the same world as she was.
In private life the actress was in fact his wife! Another element of L'Immortelle that shocked spectators was that the city of Istanbul did not seem to lend itself to a realistic documentary. This hero is a Frenchman who arrives in Turkey and already has conjured up fantasies about the Orient -- picture postcards or memories of novels that he has read, such as those of Pierre Loti, with sequestered harems, etc. I do not understand why critics hold that against me since it is explicitly stated in the film that these are postcard scenes. It is the first film I directed and not my personal favorite.
A first film is always, after all, an apprenticeship, and I reproach myself for certain aspects of L'Immortelle. Ironically, what critics faulted in the film is, on the contrary, exactly what succeeds -- all these things that were part of my own plan, particularly what the critics have called false continuities, which are false precisely because that was my intention. In L'Immortelle, as in Marienbad, a relationship is established between a man and a woman who meet once but do not seem to belong to the same universe.
AR-G: Marienbad was shot by a great cinematographer named Sacha Vierny, while L'Immortelle was shot by someone far less accomplished who would not understand my intentions. The camera in Marienbad is extremely mobile and fluid, whereas the camera movements in L'Immortelle are stiff by design. The stiffness of those movements was one of my first points of disagreement with the camera operator. For example, I explained to the cameraman that he must carry out a pan at the same time that a character is changing place, but that the character will not have a constant motion -- he will slow down, accelerate, turn around -- and that he, the cameraman, must carry out a perfectly regular movement as if the character were in the field of view almost by chance, so that at certain moments the character will be completely at one side, or completely on the other side, or he even will risk being lost by the camera.
I wanted to bring out the mechanical aspect of camera work as it accompanies movement. For the camera operator, these directions proved impossible. The professional cameraman, as he manipulates his handles, is accustomed to following the character. When the character slows down, the cameraman, totally without being aware of it, also slows down. Of course, that caused great disappointments for me in L'Immortelle. In fact, the image of L'Immortelle was meant to be even more rigid than it actually turned out to be. I had disagreements with the technicians because they would resist unless I told them what it was supposed to mean.
In fact, I could not say why I wanted something done in a particular manner. Quite simply, I just saw it that way. The discussions with the technicians obstructed the shooting in ridiculous ways. They knew what was normally supposed to be done, and they assumed I lacked the technical proficiency. Since I was a novelist, they did not trust my judgment. I remember one time the cinematographer said, "Look, I know how to do this because I've done it for two hundred and fifty films.
But all my othet films went much easier because I selected young technicians who were just completing school and who were anxious to work exactly in ways they had been prevented from doing while still students. AF: If you are unhappy with the execution of camera movement, are you also dissatisfied with the cinematography?
AR-G: Yes, I also have complaints about the image itself, about the cinematography. For example, there is a shot meant to serve an important role in L'Immortelle as a generating cell of the entire film; it is a shot of N, the protagonist, looking out through the shutters from a completely darkened room, with no source of light, to a violently lighted exterior, the Bosporus. At the beginning of the film, that shot appears four times, and each time I see those shots I become angry at the cinematographer.
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The character is in a room looking out through jalousie shutters. In the room it is daylight, though there is no source of light, while outside shines the bright summer light of Turkey. Inside one actually sees the shadow of the character against the wall. There is a light behind him, and the room is completely bright -- lit as if all the windows were open, when in fact they are all closed. While we were shooting I pointed this out to him. His reply was, "You can't know what we'll see on the film because you're not a film technician.
This supposedly obscure cell, which is almost always immediately followed by a close-up of the face of the slightly smiling, enigmatic young woman, lost all its power as a generating cell. AR-G: When you abandon the entire notion of narration, of telling a story that someone is going to narrate, then the question immediately arises as to the origin of the story. What is the place, the point, from which this story is produced? The question is an important one in many modern films that do not claim to be realistic.
In L'Immortelle, in particular, the discourse originates from the character in the room who is thinking. The room must be dark, and the outside world should be very bright because what unfolds in his imagination lies beyond the confines of his room. Later, when I objected to this image to the cinematographer, he calmly responded that he was afraid that people would have thought he did not know how to light the room. He said he was afraid of losing his union card. AF: What was your reason for creating false continuities?
AR-G: There were endless discussions of this matter with the technicians. You will recall that the young woman wrote an address on note paper and then crumpled it up and threw it away because she said it was a false address. Once she has disappeared, N returns to the park, finds the paper, unfolds it, and opens it.
He sees that there is nothing written on it, and he throws it away again. Normal montage would show the character bending down to pick up the paper, show him looking at it and unfolding it, provide a close-up of what he sees -- which is to say the blank paper without any address -- and then return to the shot that shows him throwing away the paper. In L'Immortelle the viewer sees the character pick up the paper, unfold it, look at it, crumple it, and throw it away; and after he has thrown it away, there is a close-up of the paper before his eyes.
This gesture is repeated several times: crumpling up the paper, throwing it away, and then the close-up of the blank paper, which in each sequential scene is closer and closer to the lens. Here too, the impression that should remain is not a realistic one but a mental one: he saw it, he threw it away, and he remains obsessed with the idea that there is nothing written on it. He sees the paper again several times; he throws it away several times.
Another example of that same type of false continuity has to do with space -- the previous example representing a false continuity in time. Imagine a character who enters a room and sits down. In a normal film the viewer will see him opening the door and taking his first step.
Then the camera will cut at the moment his leg is in the air. In the next shot the camera has obviously moved, and he puts his leg in the same position and sits down. That is precise or "regulation" continuity. The rules of continuity normally dictate that when a character is suspended in motion in a given space and sequence, one must return to that character in motion. In L'Immortelle the first shot is standard. One sees him take the first step followed by a cut in the middle of the motion, but in the second shot, the spectator sees the subject sitting, completely immobile.
At that moment about fifty technicians on the set raised their hands and exclaimed, "My God, what we have to do to earn a living! The discussion lasted about three hours. You wanted a reason, that is it. AF: Could you comment on the circular structure of the film, especially regarding the recurring shot of the car moving towards the city?
AR-G: That traveling shot of the car moving along the walls of the city was interrupted several times by the sound of the accident that was to take place later.
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Marienbad's soundtrack is not as complex. The soundtrack represents one of those rare instances when my intentions were not followed by Resnais. AR-G: Yes, that could be true because the viewer might think the character remains in the same cell the entire time and he has never met this woman or any of the other characters. The events are manifestations of his dreams about the Orient. Nevertheless, I included a detail to prevent the viewer from thinking that nothing occurred.
I see the detail myself, but I am not sure it can be seen by the viewer. In the first accident, the one in which "the immortal woman" was killed, the protagonist's hand was wounded. Subsequently, his hand is bandaged. In the generating cell, some shots show his hand bandaged and others do not. Unfortunately, despite all that useless light put there by the cinematographer, one does not easily see the hand.
AR-G: Yes, in order to reassure the producer, I wrote a shooting script, shot by shot. Because I was a prisoner of what was written, I was unable to take advantage of unexpected events that always take place during a shoot. There is only one shot in L'Immortelle that was not written and was therefore due to chance. We had installed a very high platform tower to look down on the plaza in front of the mosque, which is usually full of people.
We had this plaza emptied out by a great number of policemen. In the first shot, there are only a few characters in the plaza, immobile and rigid, as are all the characters of the film. Then I planned to take a second shot in which there was only one character in the background who would be leaving, after which the plaza would remain empty. But between the two shots the chief of police came to tell me that the funeral of a general was heading towards the mosque and it was impossible for the police to stop the casket of a general.
I said it was fine, and the coffin, carried by six officers and accompanied by numerous other people -- all with natural movements -- came through the middle of the field of view as I had prepared it. I said, "Camera," and the camera operator immediately began shooting for a brief moment. But the cinematographer stopped the camera because it was a shot he had not lit! I nevertheless kept the little footage we did obtain. Ironically, the shot looks as though it were planned because the woman has disappeared, and N is looking for her. Then the burial occurs, and it looks perfectly symbolic.
In fact, the action is natural; it happened that way. AF: How long do you spend in preproduction, actual shooting, and actual editing. To what extent do you involve yourself in each phase of the process? AR-G: Preproduction for L'Immortelle was extensive because of the revolution in Turkey and also because I forced myself to write out the entire film. The shooting lasted six weeks, which for me is considerable but short by commercial standards, especially in a foreign country where there are always problems with language and translation.
On the other hand, the period of montage was very long, as it always is with me. In the subsequent films, the shooting time was reduced, and the time for montage was extended, up to eight months. For me, at the present, there are three phases of creation when making a film: when I imagine the film, when I shoot it, and when I give it its final consistency -- the montage and sound. The sound in particular in L'Immortelle and in my subsequent films took a considerable amount of work and time.
These phases do not create a serious problem because the only component that costs money is the shooting time. Preproduction does not cost a thing since I do not charge! For the montage, I work in a small room with two or three machines and one or two technicians with whom I get along very well. For the shooting, each hour costs a fortune because one must pay for the equipment, the actors, the lights, the sets, and so on. Perhaps not for L'Immortelle but for all my subsequent films, the montage calls into question everything that I had done in each previous phase.
In the commercial cinema of Hollywood, the directors do not participate in the editing, so there can be no question of cutting here and finding the character sitting there. Hollywood technicians would repair that "error. Alain Robbe-Grillet: The film is controlled by a director after all. When the director chooses an actor, he bases his selection on what the actor will do. I had seen a number of films with Trintignant, and I knew he was an actor whose humor would be consistent with my concept for the film. And indeed it was. While many people -- technicians and so forth -- collaborated in making the film, Trintignant did add humor to it.
AF: The reason I mention Trintignant is that he uses similar humorous body movements from one film to the next. But humor has not been extensively discussed in your work. AR-G: In any case, I do not want to speak about humor. You know that one cannot discuss humor seriously.
Some of the humorous references that you cited were found in what I had written -- the raincoat, for example. On the other hand, the great wave of his arm when he dies is much more his own contribution. An actor who really understands what we want to do is able to invent in the same vein. At the time of L'Immortelle, I constrained the actors completely; but with Trans-Europ-Express, I did exactly the opposite -- I used their personal qualities of play. In my opinion, that is a preferable method. Besides, my humor is much more apparent in Trans-Europ-Express than in L'Immortelle, where, I must admit, no one has ever seen it!
But if I chose specific actors such as Trintignant or Lonsdale in The Progressive Slidings of Pleasure, it is precisely because they are people whose performance as actors already suggests a playful quality. AF: Since we are still talking about the actors and humor, I am wondering if there is a theoretical principle to humor that you employ? But I must say that no one saw anything; no one found that film funny except me.
And at the same time, with the novel La Maison de Rendez-Vous. AF: To some extent, does the humor not result from an exaggeration of stereotypes that you use? AR-G: People who try to avoid stereotypes are those who fall the most into stereotypes.
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Thus Flaubert was affirming that the only elements of discourse available -- events, ideas, and so forth -- are stereotypical ones, that the only way of affirming one's freedom and one's creativity is in the structure that will be given through what Flaubert calls form. The whole difference between Balzac and Flaubert is not that Flaubert uses stereotypes and Balzac does not, but that Flaubert knows it, and Balzac does not. Balzac's work consists only of stereotypes. He believes his work to be original, but it is simply a catalog of stereotypes, an absolutely incredible one.
I believe that stereotypes are a raw material that one cannot avoid; only one must manipulate them in such a way as not to be a victim of them. The best way to be a victim of a stereotype is to believe that you can escape it. AF: That would give you a certain freedom with respect to stereotypes and to realism in particular. You can manipulate structure more easily because you are aware of the stereotypes. AR-G: Yes, probably so. In fact, many filmmakers from the moment they decide to become serious are trapped by the stereotypes, and their work becomes grotesque.
AF: I think that humor balances and redeems the work in a sense and saves it from falling into that particular trap. AF: I have heard you speak about Jorge Luis Borges' influence as a textual source for The Man Who Lies, and it seems to me that the structural principle of circularity and the independence of the character from the creator are other Borgesian themes.
AR-G: It is possible, but I was not conscious of it. AR-G: Yes, and seeing them, I reinforce them. But it is even probable that there may be other references in Trans-Europ-Express. Did you see the only film for which Borges wrote the entire script, entitled Invasion?
AR-G: Never, it has not even been distributed in France. It was made by a young Argentinean named Hugo Santiago, whom I probably influenced. He made some films that resembled mine a little, perhaps also because he underwent the same influences as I did. Then he wanted to do commercial films, and he immediately foundered. Each character moves about the city of Buenos Aires in an individual way: the knight in a certain manner, the pawn in another way, the rook in still another, etc. The film is extremely strange.
What is astonishing is that Invasion was done much more completely than any film text Borges had ever written. He had always written projects, but for Invasion he wrote the entire film, and it is all the more strange because by then he had long been completely blind. We assume that they are pornographic scenes, but in fact they are sightseeing postcards found throughout Europe.
In Trans- EuropExpress, scenes from pornographic magazines are juxtaposed to the magazine L'Express, and Trintignant hides the sex magazine inside it. AR-G: Yes, the erotic magazine was called Europe. It had a picture of the rape of Europa on the cover. First I am seen leafing through this magazine in the railroad station, then Trintignant leafs through the same magazine. When the viewer sees me leafing through it, he sees normal photos of naked women. When Trintignant leafs through it, it is the same women, but now they are chained. One also notices that in his suitcase, when he comes into the compartment on the train, he has a hollowed out book in which he has hidden his revolver.
The book is called Transes. He has a magazine called Europe, and he hides it within an issue of L'Express.
So you have Trans-Europ-Express. But what is also humorous is that the book is a false book -- in the obvious way since it was hollowed out to hide the revolver but also because of the specific book that was hollowed out. When the book is opened to reveal the revolver, the viewer can actually read the title, and it happens to be Marnie, by Hitchcock. Hitchcock's Marnie is a particularly bad film encumbered with popular psychology. And here with it, as a kind of Freudian joke, appears the revolver. In the boy's room, there is a poster of James Bond and another of an Indian chief.
What is the significance of these particular icons, and how do you employ icons throughout the film? AR-G: From the point of view of the diegesis, 1 it is the story of an adolescent who is interested in this form of modern mythology. For this reason, Trintignant walks in front of the posters and begins to imitate the gestures that he sees in them. AF: One of my favorite shots of the film is when you frame the two ships traveling in different directions.
It is almost like a metaphor of a dissolve, where one image disappears and the other one takes over. The same kind of structural principle seems to exist in the film, where one narration is taken over by another narration to form a dialectic. It seems to be a structural principle of opposing narrators, where one takes over and the other recedes. AR-G: Yes, you could say that, although I had not seen it that way. The ships were there; it is not I who made them move.
Of course, it is always good when something moves in the image, and in this case, it turned out to be those ships. That type of shot is often present in the film: for example, the open bridge that slowly comes back into position. In the exterior shots, there are an enormous number of elements that are not foreseen. We filmed what was occurring. For the ships, you might say that I chose to shoot at that particular time, but I had not been forewarned when the water suddenly came rushing into the dry dock.
None of the workers in the port warned me that they were going to be filling the basin. It even caused some problems because we had to climb little by little. There are some false continuities because they do not take place at exactly the same level since the water had risen too fast. Whereas here, exterior elements play an important role. One time, for instance, it began to rain, and we continued filming.
The people in the Jewish quarter of Antwerp, for example, were not told that they were being filmed. One shot that I really regret losing occurred when we were filming with a hidden camera while Trintignant was crossing the street to enter the Hotel Miro. Lelouch's A Man and a Woman, which had made Trintignant very popular, had just been released, and a young woman who suddenly noticed Trintignant with his suitcase rushed over to ask for his autograph. Trintignant handled it very well. He did not stop acting; he put down his suitcase, took the woman's notebook, and signed it.
Then he went on his way with his suitcase. But the fool of a framer had cut, even though I had not said so. Ethically he had no right to cut without my permission. He did so because the scene had been interrupted, but it would have been striking if that had been left in the film. I told the cameraman that I had not said to stop shooting, and he replied that all we had to do was to ask the young woman to come back and shoot it again. Of course, I refused. RS: I was struck by certain kinds of drawings in the apartment of the adolescent that were done as if on frosty windows.
AR-G: Yes, we put a fog on the windows so that one would not be able to look out and see the building across the street too clearly since the apartment in the story is supposed to be in a different location. And in order to decorate that surface, I myself made a few drawings on it. I included the phone number of the Editions de Minuit 2 and other details of that nature. AR-G: You know that traviata means "gone astray" or "off course. It makes me laugh, but it makes no one else laugh because it is never discerned.
Very curiously, all of Verdi's titles have been translated into French. Yet in French it is called La Traviata, and no one knows what it means. It is the story of a woman of a good family who becomes a whore, who has gone off course or off the right track. Then there are all those railroad tracks [voies in French] and the story itself, which leaves the right track for a perverse one.
I also use this particular recording of La Traviata because it is very expensive to pay the rights for recorded music for film. It happened that Verdi had just fallen into public domain so we had the right to use his music but not the mechanical reproductions of his music. So I used a Russian recording. They do not worry about authors' rights since they, at least at that time, had not signed the international copyright convention.
They publish my books without sending me royalties because they have not signed the convention, so I took great pleasure in using a Soviet recording. Moreover, I find it amusing that she is singing in Russian. But it could have not worked, and then we would have used another piece. When the music works, then we adjust the image slightly as a function of the soundtrack. I do not know if you remember in the rape scenes in particular a concordance between the events of the music and the events of the scene.
That is partly by chance and partly because we made slight adjustments of the image to the soundtrack. AR-G: The good thing about Verdi's music in comparison to other music for example, the compositions of Gustav Mahler is that it is very sectionable. In this case, we used chords, just chords or a series of chords, which were then cut on the sound tape and were later synchronized with the image. It is great fun to adapt music to the image and then to rectify the music as a function of the image, which cannot, after all, be cut at random.
What accounts for this discrepancy? Alain Robbe-Grillet: I am not sure that I, myself, understand a particular film. The entire problem stems from the use of the word understand. When one stands before a painting in a museum, for example, the first subjective reaction is to say, "I like that painting," and it is only later that one asks whether or not one understands it. The question of understanding is, in the final analysis, less important than a more direct or sensual participation.
Film does not belong to conceptual art but to plastic art. The spectator looks for something to understand, and if he does not understand it, he will say to himself, "I missed the point of this film. It simply may be that the film has within it an enigma that is not to be understood. As for European spectators, be assured that they are very much like American audiences, only they are more accustomed to seeing enigmatic films because they are regularly shown in commercial theaters, whereas in the United States they are never shown. As a result, some extremely interesting American films have never been distributed in the United States but were shown in Paris.
This question of comprehension is an important one. I think the question, as formulated, suggests frustration about an absence of overall meaning. One's own experience of the world, outside of movies, reveals that the world is sometimes understandable, sometimes contradictory. This world cannot be summarized by an overall meaning. When young, one believes that at the moment of death, life's meaning will reveal itself. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Roch Smith: And your films are closer to actual experience than the typical commercial film?
AR-G: Without a doubt. The passion of a living being for his life is the passion of experience, whereas American commercial cinema, in particular, is made to be reassuring. Life is enigmatic, but American film is made to reassure because there, at least, meaning is certain. Everything takes place as if the commercial cinema were a drug designed to insulate the viewer from the enigma of life. AR-G: Yes, surely. For example, the main character in The Man Who Lies seems to refer to a past, but quickly we discover that is not what interests him. Instead, he is interested in creating himself through his own words.
He speaks in order to be. He tells stories to various people so that he might be believed and justified. The myth of Don Juan is significant in the film, for he is one of the first figures in the history of Western civilization to have chosen his own word against the word of God. He addresses himself especially to women; he wants to persuade women, whereas he kills men. Women are supposed to have more freedom with respect to the truth of the established powers. In comparison to men, the women in our civilization are believed to have a more open and adventurous spirit. I am not saying this assumption is true, but that notion floats about in our ideology.
For that reason, they burned many more witches than warlocks in the United States. Many feminist movements have taken the witch as their emblem because it is precisely the witch who in our tradition opposes established truth embodied in the adult white male. A young woman is a human being who is not on the side of order but rather on the side of adventure and subversion, the possibility of another world, etc. Again, I am not saying it is true, but that idea has been prevalent in our civilization for hundreds of years. The question is not one of simple sexual desire.
Don Juan exists only because there are women who exist. It is, in fact, a world where man is absent. Only young women are left in that castle. The men who remain are old. In that context, where man has disappeared, there is nothing else, and yet love endures; it is a constant. Consequently, lesbianism emerges. The man returns, but it is not the man who lived there previously. He says he is that other man, but the young women see immediately that he is not the one they had known. He admits their assertion is true, but he claims he is the previous man's friend and returns in his place.
From that moment on, this main character will have a double: on the one hand, the man who speaks; on the other, allusions to the one about whom he speaks. The relationship is constantly conflictual: he might help him or then again he might kill him or else protect him and so on. Both men also have the same voice. The main actor is Jean- Louis Trintignant, and his double is a well-known Slovak actor who does not speak French and who therefore articulated French in an awkward way.
Both voices were then dubbed with that of Trintignant, who ultimately speaks French with a Slovak accent since he follows the movement of the Slovak actor's lips. This hero has two names; sometimes he is called John and at other times Boris. John is Don Juan, of course. Boris is from Pushkin's play Boris Godunov, which Mussorgsky later turned into an opera. The allusions to Boris Godunov are as frequent as are those to Don Juan. Boris is a false czar, a usurper, who assassinated the last son of Ivan the Terrible in order to reign in his place.
When he is the czar, in a way, he is truth. Concurrently, he is not the real czar so he is also the lie. Boris Godunov was pursued his entire life by the ghost of the heir whom he assassinated. The same kind of doubling exists in The Man Who Lies, where some scenes are borrowed directly from the Pushkin play.
For example, when Trintignant is in an attic full of objects, he backs up while speaking to someone who is advancing on him but whom nobody sees; it is the ghost of the heir who was assassinated. This allusion already creates some meaning. Don Juan, the free hero, and Boris Godunov, the imposter, the usurper: both of these networks of meaning permeate the film.
AF: When you talk about the character who uses words to create meaning, it is reminiscent of Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, who are characters in search of an author to give meaning to their lives. It seems to me that is the reason you selected the applause from a Pirandello play to include in The Man Who Lies. AR-G: It is true. I have a great admiration for Pirandello and not only Six Characters in Search of an Author but Tonight We Improvise, To Each His Truth -- in short, for all his dramatic production, which has been in existence since the s.
I would like for people to say that I was influenced by Pirandello. Unfortunately, Pirandello is not in vogue. Many scenes in The Man Who Lies allude to another group of elements of meaning related to the actor -- the stage actor, with all the paradoxes included in being an actor. The actor is the one who is who he says he is; therefore, if the actor comes on the stage and says he is Agamemnon, the audience must believe him. It is not a question of saying, no, you are Mr. In The Man Who Lies, the reference to the actor on stage is made several times with precision. In the scene I just referred to, where the hero is backing up before a ghost, he finishes by entering a room where the father's body is laid out.
He bumps against a table that he overturns, he spins around suddenly, he sees the body and the two young women, and he says, Don't be afraid, I am merely rehearsing. I am an actor, Boris Varissa. Perhaps you have heard of me? The sounds are unrecognizable as to a particular play, but they are recognizable as originating from a theatrical scene: the sounds of the curtains opening, then people shifting in their chairs and shuffling papers, and at the end, applause. AF: I think that the key problem is one of transferring the association of these sounds of this particular play to the audience; that is, these sounds and references are rich and have a particular context for you, but there is almost no way in which an audience could possibly know that they came from the Pirandello play.
AR-G: It is not a problem that is peculiar to my films; it is a problem for art in general. On the one hand, I do not think it is terribly important for someone to recognize that particular sounds came from a Pirandello play. It is perfectly possible not to know it and appreciate the film. I do not normally explain these details. I was, in fact, even surprised that you knew that it came from a Pirandello play. Besides, there are always many more elements in a work than the public can ever see.
I admire Joyce's novel Ulysses. But I am persuaded that I do not see more than about a tenth of what Joyce put into that novel. He had a Shakespearean culture, a Catholic culture, an Irish culture, and I see these intersecting at only a few points while he himself was permeated by these three cultures. I fully know that I will never see the wealth of allusions that will, in a single word, draw together Shakespeare, Ireland, and the Catholic religion.
But there will always be someone who will see one aspect or another. When a work will have had enough readers or spectators, this totality -- what Riffaterre 1 has called the arch-reader or arch-spectator for cinema -- will have, in essence, recovered something close to the totality of the meaning. All I have talked about here so far are cultural facts that can be learned through the culture, but there are in a work many personal facts that only the author will ever know.
I do not think we would still be studying Shakespeare's works with the same interest if we immediately saw everything that he included. The thrill of seeing a film, or reading a book, or seeing a Shakespeare play is one that is always renewed, as if one were the first spectator or reader.
Therefore, if film is an art, it must be able to answer to this characteristic of always having a deferred meaning. If, on the contrary, someone has ambition to make television programs for American networks, it is obvious that these kinds of preoccupations will no longer apply. He was on location, and he would notice ambient sounds in the forest or the castle, sounds that were not part of my own script.
When certain sounds seemed interesting, he would record them. Thus, when the film was finished, he already had a collection of sounds. Then I did the montage of the image without consulting Fano. When I finished this montage, Fano reassumed his role. He looked at the visual reel along with the direct sound, which included the words that were recorded during shooting but that were not available to me during the montage of the images.
Then he and I discussed what should be done with the sound track at various points. During the course of this discussion, I would have my ideas, but he could propose some of his own changes. From that moment forward we worked as collaborators. I gave him a copy of the film to work with in the sound lab, and every day or so I met with him to hear what he had created.
At any particular stage, the sound was not on a single reel but on three, four, five different reels. These synchronous reels, as they are called, all have the same length as the film, but they have only part of the sounds of the final mixed reel. At that stage, obviously, one can never hear the final results. They must be imagined because one hears only the separate sound elements that are later mixed. The elements in question are the sounds that he recorded during the shooting -- sounds suggested to him by the images, those he will create and musical motifs that he will then compose.
The final stage, and the most interesting, is when all these sounds are mixed. Then the image is projected onto a large screen with the possibility of putting into play up to fifteen sound reels simultaneously. On the bottom of the screen a series of small points called tracks move forward. The mixing operation lasts eight to ten days, and it is fascinating, for at that moment the image takes on its presence.
One might notice, for instance, that if the footsteps are made slightly louder or lower, it completely changes the image itself. During those ten days we try different versions. For someone who is a stranger to the profession, it is fascinating to witness this experience because, in fact, he sees the image change according to the way it is oriented by the sound in one direction or another. AR-G: Yes, mixing is an expensive operation, but in comparison to shooting, it is relatively cheap because there are only a total of four technicians at work on this big machine.
AR-G: It is true that I have always been lucky enough to find funding and often without having to look for it. People propose to me that I do a film. In the case of The Man Who Lies, the director of the Slovak cinema admired L'Immortelle and wanted me to make a film in the Slovaklan Republic without any constraints and with all of the support from the state cinema, a nationalized cinema. Yet I find that normal. I find it much more strange that in Europe, and sometimes even in America, large sums of money continue to be allocated to directors who have repeatedly ruined their producers.
I have always had good relations with my producers, both before and after the films. In fact, I have done several films with the same producer because I know how to make low-cost films. In the United States the idea that there is only one public, one cinema, and one system of production is pervasive. In Europe we admit that there are several publics and that, in fact, the people who go to see Rambo are not the same as those who will go to see The Man Who Lies.
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The film was shot in Czechoslovakia before the period known as the Prague Spring, when Czechoslovakia thought it would be able to escape from Stalinism, at a time when the bureaucracy was already beginning to weaken. Although bureaucratic clearance was always granted, several points posed problems for them.
Number one, they considered it impossible for a son of the bourgeoisie to have been a hero of the Resistance. I said, "You must be joking," and I cited many examples to the contrary. They answered that it was true in those days, but in film, former truth was now impossible. In short, they gave a definition of ideological truth. The second point was that they said it was impossible for an old noble family inhabiting a castle to have kept its servants. In fact, where we filmed there lived a ruined baroness, and the same old domestics had remained, without salary, in order to stay with their former employer.
When I was back in France, a Hungarian nobleman wrote me a letter to say, "You shot this film in the. I was raised there, and I would like to meet you to talk about it. How is she getting along? Because the castle is, as you saw, rather in ruins, and there is no longer any means of supporting her. How does she survive there? What is she doing? The Hungarian nobleman added that she was waiting for her brother. Her brother had disappeared in those mountains in the War of ! So it turns out that my story of The Man Who Lies was true.
This is remarkable because, in fact, he was a hero who had disappeared, and she was sure he would return. For fifty years she waited, and every time someone opened the door, she was persuaded that it was he who was returning. The third point is the newspaper Pravda. One sees a soldier reading a newspaper with the name Pravda written in Roman rather than Cyrillic characters.
It was not the Russian edition but the Slovak edition of Pravda. A bureaucrat then informed me it was absolutely impossible for a man in a German occupation army to be reading Pravda because it did not appear until after the occupation. Then he forgot about all those objections, because he sensed, after all, that they were trivial. The film was finished and the Prague Spring erupted, followed by the invasion of the Soviets and other troops of the Warsaw Pact. They were officers of the German Democratic Republic who could well be reading Pravda. The fact that Trintignant hits one of the officers with this newspaper, which is the official newspaper of the Party, thrilled the spectators.
All the more because Pravda, as you know, means truth. RS: You mentioned the political response to the film. Transcripts of interviews conducted between and with avant-garde French novelist and filmmaker Robbe-Grillet, about his nine movies, including Last Year at Marienbad , L'Immortelle , and The Progressive Slidings of Pleasure. Includes a bibliography and filmography, and full index. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or. Convert currency.
Add to Basket. Condition: New. More information about this seller Contact this seller. Never used!. Seller Inventory P Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title In a revealing series of interviews, Anthony N. Review : "Here is Robbe-Grillet at his best: witty, controversial, and often brilliant.