Last Year at Marienbad (1961) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
125 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Want a precious hint? Read the novella "La Jalousie" by Robbe-Grillet
debblyst3 December 2003
It's useless to speculate on the "real" meaning of this dream-like movie that is an investigation on the mechanics of memory, and has the absolutely unique feature of allowing as many interpretations as there have been viewers since it opened to change cinematic grammar, decades ago. I've seen it 4 or 5 times over a span of some 25 years and still find it sumptuously directed, endlessly fascinating, eerie, one of my favorite movies of all time, and above all, an O-R-I-G-I-N-A-L !! Every movie ever made since "Marienbad" has a direct or indirect debt to it, as it abandoned (and subverted) objective story-telling tradition and entered the realm of total subjectivity, challenging movie audiences' intelligence, attention and perception. Of course, it's not meant for viewers who associate movies with light entertainment, though anyone who's ever wondered about his/her own mnemonic idiosyncrasies -- the diffuse, random, inaccurate way we recall facts and sometimes even mix them with imagined stuff -- surely COULD relate to this masterpiece.

There has been many conjectures as to the subject and the plot. Well, if you want a good hint, let me give you a precious one: read the novella "La Jalousie" (Jealousy, 1957), by Alain Robbe-Grillet, who is also the screenwriter of "Marienbad". "La Jalousie" is the thematic and "ideological" inspiration for "Marienbad".

Robbe-Grillet (one of the top names of the French "Nouveau Roman" movement along with Nathalie Sarraute, Marguerite Duras, Michel Butor, etc), was a former agronomist/ mathematician (and his writing shows it) who became a writer/filmmaker with a very personal, geometrical, unemotional, descriptive style. The novella "La Jalousie", like most Nouveau Roman books, is essentially cinematic in their approach of characters and plot, functioning like a film camera, a non-opinionated unobtrusive observer, but insightfully revealing in its "detachment".

His novella "La Jalousie" is a fascinating, maze-like circular construction, in which beginning and end mingle many times over, each time from a different perspective, just like observing a house or a sculpture from different angles one at a time -- which means each angle is only partially accurate, revealing but a portion of the truth, while hiding another. The "observer/narrator" in the book (the husband, but written in the third person - "he") tries to locate in PLACE and TIME the precise moment in which the feeling of jealousy arises in him as he tries to find the extent of his wife's relationship with another man (a.k.a. the threesome in the film). Did an affair really happen? Is it yet going to happen? Or is it his imagination, his suspicion, just his jealous feeling? (btw, this is the same theme as Proust's incomparable masterpiece "La Prisonnière", treated in antipodal, totally psychological, but equally obsessive style).

As in most "Nouveau Roman" novels, the notion of TIME in "La Jalousie" (and also in "Marienbad") is transformed and deformed; the approach of the characters is non-psychological, meaning that thoughts and outbursts of emotion are not dealt with, only the description of places, words, gestures and actions. Everything (even a very strong feeling like the birth of jealousy) is apprehended only through the observation of external facts: small gestures, the position of a chair or a table, a glass found full or empty, an unexpected sound, the way the woman combs her hair or looks at herself in the mirror, a suddenly unusual way of getting up or sitting down which leads to the husband's perception that something has suddenly, dangerously, definitely changed.

Well, it made very much sense to me that language-experimentalist book-worm Alain Resnais (think of all of his movies which were based on literature) and his fascination with memory and the brain (think "Hiroshima Mon Amour", "Je t'Aime Je t'Aime" and "Mon Oncle d'Amérique") should venture in constructing this film in visual terms using the geometrical structure of the novel (hence the breathtaking serpentine camera movements), with no beginning or end, respecting its "external", non-psychological, non-motivational approach of the characters and the plot, never condescending to "explanations".

See the film and read the book! I'm sure that, if you've liked (or been baffled by) the film on a first viewing, you'll have many insights on a second viewing of this absorbing, totally fascinating movie after reading the book on which it is structurally/esthetically based. While it's not essential to do so, it could be kind of a bonus! What else can I say? A definitive, revolutionary, undisputed film classic - 10/10
180 out of 201 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Persistence of Memory
wperkins13 June 1999
The title of Dali's best known work is an apt description of this film. A man meets a woman at a European spa and tries to convince her (and himself) that they met one year ago. While the plot is simple, its presentation is not. I first saw L'annee derniere a Marienbad while taking a French Film class in college. Of the dozen or so films we watched, Marienbad has stayed with me the longest. The nameless protagonist's memories repeat, sometimes minutely changed, sometimes not. The same organ motifs echo again and again, all against the backdrop of elegant hallways and sitting rooms. Through all this, the man attempts to spirit the woman away from her husband/companion, while at the same time establish once and for all what happened last year and what did not. More than any other film, Marienbad has shown me the difference between American film conventions and what else is possible. While so many American releases are rigidly plot driven, Marienbad uses film as a tool for exploration and introspection. Instead of linear story telling, director Resnais allows his characters to explore the details of what may be memory or just imagination. Against a detached, almost stoical background of extras and cool interiors, Delphin Seyrig and Giorgio Albertazzi display a sharp contrast of passion, pleading, and denial. I agree with a previous reviewer that much of the look of Marienbad has been appropriated by commercials for perfume; however, if you haven't seen this film before, you most likely have never seen anything quite so surreal.
83 out of 96 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Intriguing and fascinating film
fpickart18 December 2002
I am amazed by the plethora of negative comments surrounding this film. Having seen it for the first time recently I thought it one of the most creative representations of a Greek myth to date. It is the story of Orpheus, a hero who attempts to rescue his love from the underworld but must convince her to leave of her own free will. The film is set in a hotel and the surrounding gardens. The film is rich in symbolic imagery and the camera shots beautiful. The score leaves something to be desired but anyone who loves Greek mythology and good cinema should appreciate this film.
41 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Darker and more sinister than is generally reckoned
Dave Godin17 September 2000
It would take a braver person than me to delineate what LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD is `about', but as it is such an entirely thought provoking film, perhaps some sort of `meaning' can come from sharing these thoughts about it. Many people define it as cerebral and classical, but to me it is romantic and gothic. What is remarkable about the setting and the characters is that they are all so wealthy that they can rise above the concerns of ordinary mortals, only to find that this advantaged life brings other problems - of identity, purpose and values. They are strangely existentialist - the existentialism of great wealth - their small talk is intelligent, informed and stilted; they are all beautiful in the sense that money can partly buy beauty, and yet, in the process, they have lost human warmth, real sexual desire, and any purpose in life other than to drift on in their station in life. But desire is a respecter of nobody, and it is this element of human nature that haunts the corridors of the hotel like an invisible mist, and subconsciously their acutely civilised life-style which has bereaved them of something they no longer acknowledge or recognise and have deeply repressed - only to find it lingers on the fringes, confusing and disturbing them - spoiling everything; a depressive dissatisfaction. There is no joy, no enjoyment. The gardens become symbols of this desire to enslave, conquer and exile nature - formal, rigid and planned, and yet within the hotel, all around are decorative symbols of the chaotic and random aspects of nature. Everything appears to carry a symbol that needs to be interpreted - if it is there, it must have meaning, and if the Man says that they had arranged to elope together when they were at Marienbad, (or was it Marienbad, or elsewhere, and what does it matter?), how can the Woman be sure that this is not a ruse, made up to give immediate warning that we exile our emotions at our peril? That to acknowledge this for one second risks opening floodgates which will overwhelm and destroy? Or, that the ultimate expression of desire is death itself, as the film's closing line hints when the Man's voice speaks, over the night time silhouette of the hotel, of, `You.. and me.. together.. always.. in the night'. And it is an eternal night that we all subconsciously know lays in wait for us. The Great Leveller indeed! A remarkable film by any standards, and one which for me at least, is much darker and more sinister than has generally been recognised. But maybe it is just a springboard from which we can all set off on a journey guided by our own subconscious longings and dreads?
49 out of 62 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
2nd weirdest/incomprehensible film ever
riffraf29 June 2003
My top 5: Alain Robbe-Grillet's "L'Imortelle" takes number 1 (by a landslide), and its a tie between David Lynch's Eraserhead & Blue Velvet for position 3, closely followed by Louis Buñuel's "Andalusian Dog" and Stan Brackage's "Dog Star Man" (which I would have rated number 1, except that I hated that so much I will not give it the satisfaction of being highly rated in any category!) and finally "Koyanisquatsi" which I defy any to explain or justify!

So - Last Year At Marienbad, in a nutshell, assume French Accent:

Verse 1: Man: I know you. Woman: You do not know me. Man: We were here. Woman: I was never here. Chorus: Man: Long strange monologue about the place that they are at, Marienbad. And how he has been here before and how she has been here before. Camera: panning about the ornate Marienbad mansion. Verse 2: (repeat verse 1 - add very interesting game of pick-up sticks) Chorus repeat verses 1 & 2

I think everyone should see this film. I don't know why. I have seen it numerous times. No, I have never seen it. Yes, I saw it last year! No, last year I did not see it. Yes, I saw it here, with me. Wait, I'm alone. Who am I talking to?
171 out of 236 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A modernist classic
neil-3131 August 2005
Cinema has, for the most part, been a relatively conservative art form. Perhaps it's the expense of making a feature film which has meant that they largely remain within limits and conventions imposed by commerce. Often those willing to experiment have been forced to work with low budgets and poor production values, and those regarded as more radical directors often have a very traditional approach to narrative.

But then there's Last Year in Marienbad. Robbe-Grillet was the leading light and main theorist of the nouveau roman, and already had masterpieces like In the Labyrinth and Jealousy behind him. His literary style is obsessed with visual description, meaning the jump to cinema was an obvious one. And he did it utterly without compromise.

Not that all the credit goes to Robbe-Grillet's scenario: Resnais' realisation of the ideas is near perfect, and Vierny's photography is a thing of wonder, creating a film of unique beauty.

It's possible just to sit back and enjoy it as a sumptuous treat, but there's a nagging feeling that you have to figure out what it all means. You just have to try to analyse it. Amongst all the repetitions of the dialogue, a phrase suddenly jumps out, that seems to be a key to crack the enigma, or is it just a red herring. Maybe next time I watch it, I'll crack it...

Apparently Andre Breton was one of the first to see it, and (understandably?) hated it. For all it's dreamlike atmosphere, this is fiercely structured, a game, but quite distinct from surrealism's Freudian games of chance. For Foucault and Deleuze, Robbe-Grillet's endless, inescapable mazes were paradoxically a route out of the prevailing existentialism and post-Marxism of the French intellectual elite.

A genuinely original film, showing the true potential of cinema, a challenge few since have had the courage to follow.

I need to watch it again...
56 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Genuine Art Film
harry-762 September 2000
Years come and go, but "Marienbad" seems to remain the same--intriguing, challenging, stimulating, and moving. Alain Resnais' classic emerges as a timeless work, with a memorable score (utilizing unique pipe organ music) by Francis Seyrig and striking photography by Sacha Vierny. Delphine Seyrig and Giorgio Albertazzi play out their "roles" amidst dark corridors, empty halls, baroque statuary and geometric gardens. Time seems to stand still in the world of Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet, as our rapt attention is focused on its distinctive unfoldment. The meaning seems to be in the work and the solution in the problem. We simply take it in and allow it to speak for itself.

"Marienbad" is one of those films which requires a full- size widescreen and an excellent print to weave its haunting magic. It's a one-of-a-kind film experience, and one to which one can return again and again to enjoy as a mystery, romance or meditation.
55 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A mystery, a love story, and a haunting exploration of memory
louis-167 February 1999
Scenes at a European spa unfold while a man's mind tries to recollect a love affair of the past season. In one of the most deeply psychological films I have seen, memory itself seems to be the protagonist -- or is it the villain? What plot there is simply provides the material for a meditation on the uncertainty of knowing. The accomplishment of _Last Year at Marienbad_ is to make this point convincingly even in the case of that which one would not expect a man to have difficulty remembering: a sexual involvement and loss. It does so by a hypnotic combination of wheeling, dreamlike images of the resort's architecture and grounds, together with the incantatory, obsessive, recurrent tone of the narrative voice over. In doing this it also transforms a place where people go to be waited on and to play, into a labyrinth haunted by unsmiling shades, where remembering is both impossible and necessary.
22 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Meandering & trance-like
Afracious22 November 2000
This mysterious film shows us a man and a woman in an extravagant and capacious hotel. The man insists that he had an affair with the lady last year in Marienbad (or was it somewhere else?) The woman denies it, and just wants the man to leave her alone. Perhaps the man did meet her, perhaps he didn't. Resnais puts the pieces there and lets us take what we can from it.

The beautiful looking establishment, complete with gardens of splendour, is an eerie setting for the film. The guests seem like they are in a trance most of the time. A card game is shown where a man cannot be beaten, he claims. The cinematography is brilliant. Dark, then white, giving a blinking effect at times; and constantly switching between different locations. The music throughout the film sounds like it's from an old church organ. I can understand why this film will put off some people, because it doesn't explain much, and does meander at a pedestrian pace. But approached in the right mood, and watched in a dark room, this is a film to appreciate. Peter Greenaway thinks so; the film was influential in the making of The Draughtsman's Contract, and is (supposedly) the film Greenaway most admires.
31 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the most haunting movies ever made
drownnnsoda24 November 2015
"Last Year at Marienbad" features an arithmetic roster of characters— all of whom we only come to know as A, X, and M— who are in an opulent, seemingly deserted European château. A, a female, is pursued by X, a man who insists he met her the year before; she cannot remember him. The entirety of the film is essentially a mediation on this conflict that I frankly find near impossible to put into words.

The straight truth about this film is that there is really nothing straight at all, and audiences who expect linear and clean-cut narrative structures should probably stay away. "Last Year at Marienbad" is a film that demands its audience to accept what it's offering at face value and allow themselves to be taken along for the journey, no matter how meandering, bizarre, or at times utterly incomprehensible it may be. I would liken it to the filmic equivalent of a hedge maze, though I'm not sure that really does it justice.

There is not much in the way of plot here, but rather a meditative, repetitious engagement with vague themes and settings. The camera floats throughout the ornate château, moving through crowds of actors that at times stand still as if portraiture, or ghosts; dialogue fades in and out under the throttling score of a pipe organ, dispensing some portions information and leaving others inaccessible. Phrases, scenes, and images are repeated almost as incantations—we have a context, roughly speaking, but the puzzle still remains unfinished by the end.

Aesthetically, I need not say more than that this film is beautiful, and contains some of the most stunning cinematography in film history. Though inarguably gorgeous and visually arresting, I do feel that many people fail to take note of just how unsettling this film really is. It defies categorization so I won't attempt that feat, but there is a sinister unease that pervades the entire film, largely intimated and unspoken; I would not call it a horror film, although I think there is a darker, more dangerous core than most people seem to be aware of. There are shades of Gothicism present, particularly in the way the film strives at capturing an atmosphere in favor of teleology.

I won't divulge my thoughts or interpretations on the film here as I feel it's the wrong place for it, but I will say that this is without a doubt one of the most haunting movies I've ever seen, and its influence is wide-ranging; I believe we can see bits of it in everything from 1962's "Carnival of Souls" to Ingmar Bergman to contemporary filmmakers. You will know from the reverberant opening scene whether or not this is a film you want to engage with; for some, it will do little more than frustrate, but for others, it will spellbind, unnerve, and utterly absorb you. 10/10.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
High Water Mark
mr__hyde10 March 2005
After hearing about this film countless times in various interviews and critics books *particularly interviews with Peter Greenaway* I finally decided to give it a shot. And this film has definitely shot into my top five films of all time overnight.

Resnais does a good amount of things in this film that he had tried in 'Hiroshima Mon Amour', but they are all done more effectively in this, his follow-up to Hiroshima. The way the characters interact with each other and with the audience is perfect on every level, driving the confusion of the situation further into your mind as well as the characters. The editing is flawlessly non-linear and non-traditional, the cinematography is some of the best of the period. The setting in the hotel often reminded me of Kubrick's 'The Shining', with the paranoid music and long tracking shots.

I would say the best way to describe this film is 'Hiroshima Mon Amour' with a good touch of Bunuel thrown in. It is intentionally bizarre and leaves much interpretation to the viewer, but never strays into idiotic territory. 9 out of 10.
34 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Experimental, visually exhilarating, and still polarising after nearly 50 years
youllneverbe15 April 2009
"Last Year at Marienbad" (1961) Dir.: Alain Resnais

When it comes to cinema, I'm neither a philistine nor a scholar. I'm happy to read into a film's artistic context in preparation for watching it, but it must be self-evident, and not reliant upon anything but its own merit and communicability to be considered a success. In practice, this means I will certainly read the hype, but I won't necessarily believe it. And it's a good job, because "Last Year at Marienbad" remains one of the most hyped, discussed and debated movies of all time. People disagree over virtually everything about it - the pace, the narrative structure, the individual performances, the pretense, even the plot points. Yes, that's right, after forty-eight years people still argue over what actually happens in this film, let alone what it all means and how successfully it is presented to us. So I decided to ignore the minefields of audience opinion (which is largely positive anyway, if wildly diverse) and dive in without fuss, volunteering to watch this movie from the 'philistine' end of the spectrum and if I didn't like it, screw it. It's only one film anyway.

When it became clear what I was watching, and how many traditional storytelling criteria were obviously not going to be fulfilled by "...Marienbad", I felt like I had burst in to the film's aristocratic country retreat wearing torn jeans and waving a bottle of tequila around, but ended up having an awesome time in a completely unexpected way. Make no mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It is a near-perfect realisation of a very, very dense and ambitious concept, and Resnais should be proud that he and his film-making team were able to make it. It is stately, baffling, elegant, sinister and brilliant.

Not that I could tell you what it's actually about, of course. Most people seem to think it's about the tricks and subjective nature of the memory, and the inherent flaws in how we cross-reference events with other events over time. These broad, elemental themes are the only ones I feel sure enough about to include in this review, which is illustrative of "Last Year at Marienbad"s disorienting effect. We are taken on an endless stroll through the rooms and corridors of a cold, strange country manor where the upper classes take their holidays and engage in card games and theatre. Their discussions are empty and meaningless, yet they go on forever. Time is not present in a recognisable form as the unnamed narrator loses track of how long he has been there, and how long he has attempted to persuade the unnamed woman that they met before, and that she had promised to run away with him. "Wait for one year," she'd supposedly said. "Next year I will leave with you." But the woman has no memory of him or her promise. She appears to be married to another man, who is tall, dour and imposing. Despite this, she keeps the unnamed narrator at arm's length, drawing him in and then pushing him back as if she does indeed remember something of him but is unwilling to accept it. His struggle to awaken some kind of acknowledgement of their shared past is the premise of the film.

"Last Year at Marienbad" is a bizarre maze of half-recollections and inaccuracies, where words and events are repeated several times in different situations and everything we see is very possibly on an endless loop, eventually folding in on itself and collapsing into a kind of incomprehensible singularity. We have no frames of reference for what we are seeing other than what has already been seen, and we are never to know what's 'now' and what's a memory because the characters cross over between the two. As a result I found myself trying to draw a line between reality and false memory up to about half way through the film, after which I abandoned it as a futile exercise. This is one of its key strengths - it demands so much of the viewer that we are forced to build a structure for it in our own heads, and our efforts are routinely dashed.

This all sounds terribly oblique and ridiculous, and in a sense it is; its detractors have regularly labelled it as such and that's a valid conclusion to reach. But it is spectacular on the eye, and this carried my attention right through the difficulties and to the end of the movie without so much as a pause. The camera sweeps down hallways and bursts out across garden terraces without even a jolt, it literally dances its way through the film as if it were another character. There are odd touches, too, that contribute to the striking atmosphere of the film, like Resnais' decision to have his supporting actors and extras remain completely static until they are speaking or in the company of the main three characters. He also skillfully breaks the pace by accelerating towards several shuddering climaxes in the last half of the film, which renew the viewer's attention and string us further along towards an ending that we hope will allow us something more definite to grasp.

Whether it does or not, I will withhold. It's one of the many reasons to watch this film. But beware, it is genuinely challenging viewing – and in fact, its esotericism is the only reason I won't rate this higher than I have.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
L'Année dernière à Marienbad
FilmFanatic092 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Alain Resnais' "L'année dernière à Marienbad" (1961) is a product of- and prisoner in- the world of cinema. Its story (and I use that word loosely) and its theme of the fallacy of human memory, can only be expressed through the filmic technique and language. "Marienbad" would be woefully out of place on a theatrical stage or even in the pages of a novel. It is much more akin, as are the purest of films, to the cerebral nature of poetry and the aesthetics of other visual arts. Regardless of if one derives any coherence from an initial viewing, it is nearly impossible not to be spellbound by the beauty of Resnais' images. The château- at Marienbad?- where the entire film unfolds is a place of Baroque opulence. Resnais' camera leisurely travels along the empty corridors and through ornate and archaic salons, allowing us to share its perspective and, in a sense, become one of the ubiquitous guests.

There are, of course, three guests who will become the film's primary focus. Unnamed and undeveloped, these characters still achieve a distinct knowableness in our consciousness. Indeed they should, as they are archetypes most viewers will instantly recognize from other, more narrative-oriented works. Our protagonist: naturally, the dashing leading man; the object of his affection: the chic, withdrawn beauty; and completing the requisite triangle is the beauty's darkly sinister husband and/or lover. The extent of the plot is this: Man attempts to convince unbelieving or un-admitting Woman they had a previous tryst one year prior at, perhaps, Marienbad and made plans to reunite at this later point in time. The majority of the film's relatively brief running time is spent working and reworking various reconfigurations of these events both at present, as well as coiling back to that previous year. Confusion stems from our inability to distinguish fact from fiction, flashback from fantasy, and in due course past from present. Linear causality is fruitless to seek out as all compositional elements are kept in a constant state of flux. There are even times when the piece takes on the quality of a trite melodrama undergoing radical deconstruction. But as an ultimate explanation, that would make things far too easy.

Observing the concrete, geometrically enthused gardens of the château (a location returned to repeatedly in the film), we are reminded that for as methodically constructed as these estate grounds are, the film itself is equally as fluid and esoteric. And what also of the orderly game of mathematical logic played by the two men of our love triangle? We will notice that when first introduced the Nim game is played with cards, later with matchsticks. The manipulatives are interchangeable; the game remains the same. Could it not be said that the players in our love triangle are just as interchangeable? We hardly know them. Could they not be any man, any woman, any lovers? Any case of unrequited love played out against the background of Marienbad- or elsewhere? This is my theory. But my uncertainty as to its exactitude is what will keep me returning again and again to Marienbad.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Are all the art classics masterpiece?
Ziya9016 December 2010
It seems that almost all the art movies, classics are treated like as if it is a masterpiece not only by critics, but also by some other moviegoers. Also, if the director is an acclaimed director or a master, then it is like he or she can never make 'bad' films. You can see this approach by general reviews or critics's reactions all around the world. I completely disagree with those. To give 10 out of 10 to every art classic, interpreting every scene of it, explaining the meanings and then saying that it is a masterpiece does not sound genuine for me. May it be called pseudo intellectualism? Additionally to be an acclaimed film by the majority does not make this a fact. For example, I believe that there is not something like Citizen Kane is the best movie ever, period. Nobody "has to" agree with. Of course film analysis or that movie's 'contributions' to cinema should be respected, but I believe that essentially, art is based on subjectivity, because it is about pleasures, tastes, point of views etc. Of course there are further factors which effect the impression such as age, gender etc. but... As for Last Year at Marienbad, I think that it is lack of heart, soul, emotion and even art, so too far from being cinematically or artistically impressive. In terms of direction, especially the way of story telling, the cinematography, editing or music or character study, the film has not any impressive material or anything that has an artistic influence on you (like Federico Fellini's Otto e Mezzo) I call a movie boring or dull, only and only if that movie is lack of heart and soul or emotion, in other words dramatically inefficient, which causes it to be unappealing and Last Year at Marienbad is such a movie. A boring story telling, boring characters, boring poetic monologues... The plot has a mystery, it has potential, but Resnais's approach to this story is totally different than you would expect. There is not any remarkable scene in the movie that I would talk about with enthusiasm. From the first minute till the last, the movie has not any charm, of course this is what I think. Finally, I highly recommend you Luchino Visconti's Le Notti Bianche, if you haven't seen it yet, a masterpiece in every sense.
20 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
All true but it is still boring
mnitschke131 March 2000
I do not disagree with the comments that have been made about this movie by other reviewers. But this does not change the fact that the movie is ultimately tedious and boring to watch. Yes, it might expand the traditional role of what movies can do, especially in the American market and yes it might give unique insight in the psychology of the three people involved.

That does not change my feeling that the movie is painful to watch in the sense of: there has to be a more comfortable way of bringing this message across. Experimental cinema is great; the message does not have to be a comfortable message, but if half of the audience turns off because the method of bringing the message across is like Sisiphous pushing the rock up the hill, then the whole issue is mute. I did like the visuals but the "oh so remarkable organ" reminded me of more of the background music of the early seventies softporn movies that are shown late night on TV.
32 out of 53 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Did they?
TheDonKi7 May 2014
Did they meet? This question will pop on the viewers mind a hundred times while the movie runs.

Analizing François Resnais career, we can see his passion for love, represented on the screen. He develops high quality films, made from scratch. In this movie, Resnais uses many resources to deliver a confusing but very entertaining movie.

He uses two timelines, but with the originality, that one of them maybe is fake. Perhaps they met, perhaps they didn't. Excellent takes (remarking the use of exteriors), with shots of ambiguous conversations, conform a very well thought movie that will keep the viewer with its full attention on it through its 90 minute length.

The script, which is more intelligent than the one shown on "Hiroshima mon Amour", but with a similar topic: Two individuals from different places that randomly met and start learning about each other (this was taken 40 years later by Linklater for his love trilogy).

This is a movie made not only to enjoy itself, but to enjoy the whole cinematographic concept.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Quelle merveille!"
by_StrayDog5 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"I am clouded … with … things so subtle that they have colour, texture, substance, but no name."

Virginia Woolf "The Waves"

This feature is considered one of the most accomplished endeavours among those ever undertaken in the area of cinema taken as a kind of art, and also one of the most enigmatic. So, since two main questions - about the movie's somewhat "obscure" story-line and its general meaning - seem to be still floating in the air, I will try to touch very briefly upon both these subjects.

The movie's story-line is actually not that warped. In some imaginary universe, ideal space enclosed within a secluded luxury hotel two characters meet - a man, a woman. The man claims that they have met before under similar circumstances - moreover, she gave a promise to leave with him in a year. The woman denies it. The man insists and produces evidences - painstaking descriptions of their alleged previous encounter. And we find ourselves immersed in the terrific intricacy of those descriptions interwoven with current proceedings. Sometimes both things practically merge together, sometimes they run as parallel lines - with certain discrepancies, or even suddenly create for a moment a sharp counterpoint. With frightening persistence bordering on some exquisite kind of lunacy he is calling her out of this frozen place where the characters follow their courses like cosmic orbs - never deviating from their trajectories. The woman is deranged by the perspective to abandon the only reality she - and the audience - know for something unknown and, in a way, even, probably, non-existing. It induces in her consciousness different disturbing images: acts of violence, rape, suicide. But she seems to succumb to his peculiar remote ardour at last. And she leaves the chilly perfection of her accustomed "lacquered" world, walking through the perfect geometry of a French garden to get lost "forever, in this quietest night, alone, with him".

So the main departure from tradition here is not the story-line which is altogether absent or totally incoherent, but rather the role that it plays in delivering the general meaning. As to the latter, it should be remembered that there is a pretty well-made case suggesting that Alain Resnais converted Alain Robbe-Grillet's overtly postmodernist piece of writing into a modernistic cinematic piece. That is even at conceptual level their approaches to the meaning could by no means coincide.

As far as Robbe-Grillet is concerned the justification behind this work would be the same as behind any other produced by this school (he was at the time one of the main figures of the French New Novel) - an attempt to create a purely aesthetic reality. The general approach of this school (the former existed despite the fact that the existence of the latter was constantly questioned even by its supposed members themselves) runs like this: man is completely unable to penetrate the surface of reality. Moreover, we don't have a single reason to even assume the existence of something behind it. The only thing we're left is to observe this surface and turn it through our perception into a totally subjective reality which becomes even more subjective when the result of this process, structured as a piece of art (which creation should be free from any attempts to assign any pre-conceived meaning to it that is supposed to be subsequently interpreted in psychological, metaphysical or any other terms), is perceived by someone else.

I should say that I disagree with this philosophy and aesthetic approach and find, say, Antonioni's views on this problem, formulated in his brilliant "Blow-up", much more sensible. One may also refer, for example, to Robbe-Grillet's quite awkward - especially if compared to Camus's ingenious explication of the novel - attempts to reduce Kafka's "The Trial" to pure "aesthetics" to get a perfect illustration of this doctrine's very shaky foundations. But such would be the position of the author. That's why this school is also called "ecole du regard" ("school of the glance"). That's why when asked: "What's the duration of this story: one year, two years?", Robbe-Grillet invariably answered: "It's one hour and thirty minutes" - that is the duration of the movie. In other words there can be no "fabula" behind the "syuzhet" here by definition. And one of the revelations which is supposed to dawn upon the viewer at the end of the movie is that they are in that last year's Marienbad at this very moment. Because there can be no other time and place outside any purely aesthetic reality except those this reality creates here and now.

On the other hand, the director thinks this work to be an attempt at exploring the nature of memory and mechanisms of human mind. Actually there is no strict contradiction here. Given the underlying principles of Robbe-Grillet's logic, in a way, any consistent interpretation of his work can be considered a 'correct' one. And Resnais's view on this movie could, in fact, be easily used to justify the techniques implemented in most of Robbe-Grillet's early novels. For example, the obsessive repetitiveness of the writer's "Jealousy" can be explained by the fact that we are following the peculiar patterns of a mind surrendering to this feeling. And somewhere in the middle of his another novel - "The Voyeur" - being completely lost in the flood of its meticulous details, we suddenly realize that we probably are inside the mind of a homicidal maniac.

In view of the above it can be said that some creative contribution is inevitably expected from every viewer in this case. But one thing is for sure. The unbelievable structure of this movie's finale alone - which dramatic effect is not based on appealing to conventional emotions, but derives from realization of the conflict contained in the aesthetic approach implemented - is quite enough to put the film amongst the most exquisite cinematic experiences.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Art Meets the Uncertainty Principle
Hitchcoc13 May 2014
I last watched this forty years ago, so I thought I would have a go at it. I was a grad student at the time, probably at the most pretentious time in my life. People left the film, shown at a college theater, remarking on its various esoteric qualities (many of them were trying to impress their dates with their cinematic acumen). I didn't get it, yet I got it. The visual nature of this film and its "unstuck in time (apologies to Kurt Vonnegut)" framework ha stayed with me this whole time. Renting it and watching it again, I was struck with the eerie give and take of its characters, the amazing shots of that building, the rooms that become so central to everything captivated me again. I don't know why exactly, but like "2001: A Space Odyssey," I couldn't take my eyes off it. I really believe that Resnais blended the ideas of Heisenberg with contemporary representational art. Like so much of life, our day to day existences are really repetitive and circuitous (should I say, boring) and so an encounter becomes so significant to one entity while not so significant to another. If, indeed, the encounter ever really happened. It was nice to return to this film with the kind of innocence I felt leaving the university theater those many years ago.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Emperor's New Film
gut-624 April 2006
I like art films. I generally prefer non-Hollywood films to Hollywood ones. I find endless explosions and car chases very tedious and insulting to my intelligence. Even with genre films, I prefer foreign language ones. Some of my very favourite films are slow moving and meditative (2001: A Space Odyssey, Desert of the Tartars) or involve repetitive elements (Operation Ganymede), yet I find them thrilling nonetheless, and watch them rapt all throughout. I have no problem with black and white either. I like it when the film remains ambiguous and doesn't try to explain everything explicitly (e.g. Audition, or the two previously mentioned films). I am especially partial to the depiction of dream states and films set in desolate landscapes, as they somehow speak powerfully to my subconscious. I am also a big fan of surrealism, both painterly and cinematic, when done in a non-formulaic manner, and this film is certainly non-formulaic. I think Peter Greenaway's early films are absolutely brilliant, and I love his game-playing and repetitive minimalist scores, even if it irritates some filmgoers. I happen to love repetitive minimalist music.

Why then does "Last Year at Marienbad" put me to sleep like almost no other film? I suppose it is because it is all style and no substance. As most avant-garde "music" illustrates, experimental techniques are only admirable when deployed at the service of artistic expression (e.g. The Velvet Underground) and very annoying and dull when deployed as a substitute for it (e.g. John Cage). Perhaps if Alain Resnais gave us a reason to care whether or not the protagonists had an affair last year at Marienbad, the endlessly repetitive scenery and mind-numbing music might be slightly less tedious. But I suppose that would have been considered "selling out". I will admit that this film is original for its time. Nobody had made such an insanely repetitive film with no real narrative or action and weak characterisation within an uninteresting scenario while giving us no reason to care about the characters. Perhaps the producers and directors should have asked themselves why this might have been the case. It's the sort of film academics admire for its uniqueness and experimentation, and whose lack of obvious purpose allows them to hang their pet theories on it. Film directors can admire it as a textbook of new techniques. That doesn't mean you have to put up with it.
28 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not too fond of...
sheenawhite24 March 2003
I'm going to be honest when I say that I think this movie is pretty awful. Perhaps it is one of those films that you have to see over and over again to fully understand, but there is no way I would want to put myself through that again. First of all, the music that was played throughout the entire movie was dreadful. It is hard to tell whether or not the music was there to create some sort of atmosphere, or whether it was there just to be flat-out annoying. It was hard to determine what kind of film this was while watching it. Was it a thriller? A hopeless love story? A melodrama? Throughout the film, I honestly thought that all of the characters were dead. I thought that the woman character had just died and the man was trying to get her to remember the love they shared in a past life. That would have explained a lot, for example, how the other creepy people in the house would strike a pose and just freeze. It would also explain why scenes kept jumping back and forth between different periods of time and the woman was wearing a black dress in some, and a white dress in others. Unfortunately, I don't think that this is the way it is supposed to be interpreted. The fact that it is in French didn't help either. I have nothing against foreign films but I was getting tired of reading all the subtitles because it was so boring, confusing, and repetitive.

Yes, this film is open to interpretation, but what I understand from watching it is that someone would have to pay me to watch it again! It was far too abstract and the meaning of it is either too deep, too perplexing, or just plain non-existent. The only thing that I liked about this movie is the card game that those two gentlemen kept playing, but that was about it.
27 out of 48 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A story as old as time
Polaris_DiB14 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
You know that time before you go to sleep, when your mind is caught up in that relationship, and you rework it, and remember it, but half-dream keeps slipping in, and you try to hold on to what you remember, and the other person in the relationship responds, but only as you to yourself, so you try to evade sentimental endings, pathos, romantic stories everyone's familiar with but don't stand to reality, but holding it all in your grasp, with your mind muddled at sleep's edge, you have conversations with words semantically correct but nonsense, but they express all the meaning you wanted to express, except they depend on the exact right position, the exact right circumstance, and you fall into revisionism, and you fall into delusions of grandeur, and you fall into loneliness, and behind it all you are disturbed because of the maze you've made out of fixation, the myth you've made out of fixation, you are disturbed because you're afraid of fixation, and the myth you've made is of romance, and the maze you've made is out of your feelings for the relationship, and you know, behind it all, that the only reason you feel this way is because you don't actually have the relationship, and in your dream state you accidentally think of taking the relationship, of losing the relationship, of ending the relationship, of being strong without the relationship, of showing up strong because of being strong without the relationship, and in your dream state you snap awake moments when you lose track of the consciousness, which doesn't differ too far from the relationship, and you slowly fall asleep rewriting and rewriting the ending, until you settle on the most ambiguous one you can offer, because that is the status of the relationship, or non-relationship as it could be, because it is you remembering and dreaming, and thus the ending is certainly on your side?


That's Last Year at Marienbad.

10 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A true science fiction classic
eddie5416 October 2002
Human-like aliens on a earth-like planet in a parallel universe. Life forms consist of about 50 or so replicants living in a luxurious hotel. They speak French, wear tuxedos and evening gowns, but their emotions are all but drained. They're very stiff and robotic. No one is seen eating food although they're always making plans for dinner. They enjoy posing, especially in gardens.

The actual story involves a "rebel" known as X. He is the only one that exudes anything resembling human romantic desire. He takes a shine to a femalien known as A who is in residence with her lover/husband M. X realizes that M doesn't love A, so he feels it's alright to steal her away. All he had to do is convince A that she promised to go away with him a year ago and that she wanted one year to prepare. A doesn't remember the promise and X's efforts to convince her are like trying to unlock a door with a wet noodle. Love finally triumphs in the end as A eventually runs away with X in the night leaving M standing alone on the staircase with a blank expression.

The director, Alain Resnais, is firmly quoted as saying that the film has no meaning. However, with so many people arguing that the film is loading with symbolism and is indeed much like a game or puzzle to be solved, I interpreted the film in a way that entertains me the most. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Hope you like it.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A difficult and challenging film
howard.schumann23 December 2002
X is to A as A is to M. This is not a theorem from an Algebra class but a diagram of the relationships in Alain Resnais' picture puzzle from the French New Wave, Last Year In Marienbad. Co-written by Resnais and novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet, the film is an exploration of various states of time, space, and memory. The characters do not have names but are listed in the credits as A, X, and M.

What there is of plot is very simple. A (Delphine Seyrig), accompanied by M (Sacha Pitoeff), who may or may not be her husband, and X (Giorgio Albertazzi), whom she may or may not have seen before, meet at an opulent European hotel that may or may not exist. X is disturbed that A doesn't recognize him even after he tells her of their encounter the previous year at Fredricksburg, or was it Marienbad? or Baden-Salsa? He tells her they agreed they would not see each other for one year and he is now here to fulfill his part of the bargain. X pleads with A to leave with him, and she seems to be thinking about it but the situation is complicated by M who is a brooding and threatening presence.

Underscored by somnolent organ music, Last Year In Marienbad creates an eerie and hypnotic mood. The characters walk through the hotel's long, dark corridors, gazing at the mirrors, statues, and ornate chandeliers in a trance-like state that emphasizes the atmosphere of sterility. The film has been interpreted many ways, as a dream sequence, an updated version of Orpheus in the Underworld, a satire on Hollywood film-noir romances, and a sci-fi horror story. The people are 1) real, 2) statues, 3) aliens, 4) none of the above.

Whatever its ultimate meaning, the film forces us to look at whether memory is subjective, that is, a creative process, or simply involves the recollection of an objective past? To this extent the film is successful; watching it made me think about my own past experiences and whether certain events I always took for granted were simply my interpretation. Last Year in Marienbad is a difficult and challenging film that definitely made me think but one I found frustrating to get a handle on. There were times when I was bored silly and other times when I was deeply involved in the imagery and the atmosphere. I found the best way to stay focused was to just be there, drinking in the images for their poetic rather than literal meaning. If you have the necessary patience and respond to challenges, you too will have an interesting evening (or was it morning)?
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Goodness only knows
gizmomaron2 January 2006
The saving graces of this film are the cinematography and the unresolved, multiple - possible - narratives. The second element here is, essentially, the problem: the refusal of the film to commit itself to any definite, or semi-definite narrative renders the whole thing relatively meaningless and wholly pretentious. The 'robotic' figures of another viewer's comments are nothing more than pseudo-attempts at replicating lack of energy and semi- dream like reality: a clichéd response to a post modern world if ever there was one. The acting is sub-human, with little or no attempt to convey emotion or interaction. Whilst some may argue that this is precisely the point, the counter-argument here is that non-emotion/ non-interaction is a feeble and flimsy comment on the world, which fails to convince or explore anything with any meaning. Don't waste your time seeing this trite nonsense.
16 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
He should have stuck to writing
JimFarndangl11 September 2003
If you like this then check out his written work, it incarnates better in that medium. Theoretical, pseudo-scientific, French intelligensia at best.

I personally think that the film is self-indulgent rubbish.

Unlike 'Mon Oncle Americain', where he had some coherent points to make (whether you want to believe it's Structuralism, blah blah or whatever is up to you). This is more like a crap student film study or really bad pop video. Unless you live in the rarified air of the film cognescentii, this is not enjoyable.
8 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed