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There are not many Marivaux (or for that matter, Moliére or Goldoni) comedies I have seen on film, and this is no accident. Whereas one goes to watch them to the theater, it is mostly in line with a theatrical tradition of long ago. Sch plays rarely work well in film. Not as if the themes were dated - hypocrites, hypochondriacs or, for that matter, gold-diggers are far from being extinct in our world - but because the theatrical traditions, the costumes and the style direct our attention away from the message. Even when watching Kenneth Branagh's film versions of Shakespeare comedies, I can only appreciate them as faithful renderings of Renaissance atmosphere, nothing more.
Therefore, it was quite a brave undertaking to film this 18th century piece, and to do so by apparently filming a theater performance. Apparently, for there is no audience (apart from the character of Harlequin, who sometimes appears from among the seats). Acting out a classic comedy with countesses and chevaliers, in 18th century costumes in an empty theater feels rather artificial. And this is just the point. After all, the play itself is about pretending - woman pretending to be a chevalier, gold-digger pretending to be faithful lover, nobleman pretending to be servant. The theater is an allegory for the whole theme of the play. It is no accident that, when Lélio challenges the chevalier to a duel, he leaves the stage through the back staircase - but changes his mind when he sees the chevalier following. He is not ready to give up his pretensions. The lack of set and the slightly distant way of acting (especially of the two superb actresses) turns a classic comedy into a modern, experimental performance, and this, paradoxically, allows the viewer to connect better to this world where intrigue is the only way to survive, no matter whether you're on the good or bad side.
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