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Total Eclipse (1995)

1:47 | Trailer
Young, wild poet Arthur Rimbaud and his mentor Paul Verlaine engage in a fierce, forbidden romance while feeling the effects of a hellish artistic lifestyle.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Isabelle Rimbaud
Félicie Pasotti ...
Isabelle, as a child (as Felicie Pasotti Cabarbaye)
Nita Klein ...
Rimbaud's Mother
James Thierrée ...
Frederic (as James Thiérrée)
Emmanuelle Oppo ...
Denise Chalem ...
Mr. Maute De Fleurville
Christopher Thompson ...
Charles Cros
The Judge
Mathias Jung ...


In 1871, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), an established poet, invites boy genius Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) to live with Paul and his young pregnant wife, Mathiltde, in her father's home in Paris. Rimbaud's uncouth behavior disrupts the household as well as the insular society of French poets, but Verlaine finds the youth invigorating. Stewed in absinthe and resentment, Verlaine abuses Mathiltde; he and Rimbaud become lovers and abandon her. There are reconciliations and partings with Mathiltde and partings and reconciliations with Rimbaud, until an 1873 incident with a pistol sends one of them to prison. Codas dramatize the poets' final meeting and last illnesses. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Impassioned by genius. Inflamed by desire. Imprisoned by love. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality and nudity, language, and some startling violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:


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Release Date:

3 November 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El fuego y la sombra  »

Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)


$339,889 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


River Phoenix was originally attached to the project, but the part of Rimbaud went to Leonardo DiCaprio after Phoenix's death. See more »


In the Café Andre where the adult Isabelle Rimbaud meets with Paul Verlaine, the typeface on the window is clearly in Helvetica, a typeface that was not created until 1954. See more »


[first lines]
Paul Verlaine: Sometimes he speaks in a kind of tender dialect of the death which causes repentence, of the unhappy men who certainly exist, of painful tasks and heartrending departures. In the hovels where we got drunk he wept looking at those who surrounded us, the cattle of poverty. He lifted up drunks in the black streets. He had the pity a bad mother has for small children. He moved with the grace of a little girl at catechism. He pretended to know about everything, business, art, medicine. ...
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Referenced in Entourage: The Scene (2004) See more »


Composed by Hank Deckon and Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Performed by Warsaw Symphony Orchestra and Wilanow String Quartet
Conductor [Warsaw Symphony] Krzesimir Debski
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User Reviews

Art is long, love hurts, and poetry needs words.
6 January 2003 | by (Malmo, Sweden) – See all my reviews

Of course there is pain and monstrosity in love. Two wild poets would need to live that out. But can a movie about it make any sense, without a fair portion of their poetry?

Michelangelo said that painting excels when it approaches sculpture, and sculpture when it comes close to relief. An art form is enhanced when nearing its periphery, almost turning into another art form. Along this line, I am sure that the poetry of Rimbaud and Verlaine would have stood forward excellently, when recited in the movie about their relation. It would also have helped in making their interactions understandable.

After seeing the movie a second time, I read some of Rimbaud's writings, and there was a slightly different character emerging from his words, than the one portrayed, though excellently, by Leonardo DiCaprio. Rimbaud's own words show that he was a victim just as much as a predator. Of course, he would say so, himself, but also: this modification would have made the movie rise beyond the black and white polarity it is too often caught in.

Still, I enjoyed the movie tremendously, mostly thanks to Leo and the way he made his character fire up. He might have been type-cast, to do the obnoxious adolescent, but they got more than they bargained for - he included the most important aspect of Rimbaud: the prodigy poet, the artist living for art, loving for art.

His acting is sometimes stunning, and not only in delicate scenes where minute nuances are essential, but also in all kinds of silliness in between. To hear him bark like a dog, really like a dog - did he do that himself, or was there an added sound effect? The pause, and the slightly humorous expression on his face, right before he tells his fellow poet that he expects more from him than his words. His posture and cocky moving about in the Paris of the noble poets, and his running on all four in the countryside. Brilliant acting.

There's a lot of formidable acting also on behalf of the others in the cast, even when the script and the direction works against them. And it does, more than once. Maybe the plot got all confused, simply because the poetry of the poets was not taken into account.

But a film gone awry can still be a wonderful experience. Frustrating, but wonderful. This one is.

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