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Total Eclipse (1995)

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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
Frederic (as James Thiérrée)
Emmanuelle Oppo ...
Denise Chalem ...
Mrs. Maute De Fleurville
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)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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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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Written by T.S. Eliot
Composed by Trevor Nunn and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Arranged by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Performed by Warsaw Symphony Orchestra and Wilanow String Quartet
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User Reviews

A Pair Of Talented Louts
6 February 2009 | by See all my reviews

Total Eclipse is the story of the relationship between two men who definitely made their mark on French literature. Poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud have been compared to Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, but aside from being gay the pairs have little in common. Wilde is a universally recognized talent who had the misfortune to fall in love with a spoiled young aristocrat in Douglas who had some pretenses to literary talent. Douglas was spoiled, but both he and Wilde conducted themselves well in public.

Verlaine and Rimbaud were a pair of talented louts as Total Eclipse shows us in graphic detail. Wilde married for convention's sake at the time and did have two sons and was a loving husband. His is a Victorian Brokeback Mountain story. Verlaine was a drunk and an abusive husband who regularly beat on his wife and child who was totally fascinated by young Rimbaud. He was ten years older than Rimbaud in real life, the film does make him seem a great deal older. He did read some of Rimbaud's work as a teenage prodigy and sent for the country lad. You can feel sorry for Wilde and do in the films that tell his story. Verlaine as played by David Thewlis is a really hateful person, gay audiences can't work up any sympathy for him.

However Rimbaud as played by Leonardo DiCaprio by look and talent makes you perfectly understand why Rimbaud became so obsessed with him. Verlaine was a political man, he was a supporter of the Paris Commune and was in fear of the police who would have loved to nail him on a morals charge if not on a political one. Rimbaud didn't have a political opinion in the world, he was a peasant kid from the Ardennes who partied hardy, drove Verlaine crazy and jealous, but both learned and fed off each other artistically. I found it interesting that Rimbaud and Verlaine flee to Great Britain of all places to be freer, the same place that in the next generation would persecute poor Oscar Wilde.

DiCaprio and Thewlis play a couple of louts, but a fascinating pair of louts. Total Eclipse has both these guys eclipsing the supporting cast around them, that probably is the main weakness of the film. Still fans of both men shouldn't miss this film.

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