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During the attack on an Italian town by Russian forces, the Marquise of O., the daughter of the colonel in charge of the defence, is attacked by a group of Russian soldiers. A Russian Count comes to her rescue, and falls in love with her. While he is away, she discovers that she is pregnant, though she cannot explain how that happened. Her father repudiates her, and she has to reject the Count while trying to find out who the father of her child is.Written by
I hadn't ever seen a rape comedy before, but after my first viewing of The Marquise of O I have to admit that that is, indeed, what I have seen... and it made me laugh sometimes and sit, in horror, others. I hope you understand, before you question my moral or intellectual composure, that I try as often as possible to take films and characters seriously within their own context. I am that guy that gets angry when people laugh in movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and There Will Be Blood, and yet The Marquise of O seemed somehow different. I wasn't the only one laughing in the theater.
The premise is simple, provided you live within the mindset of an early 19th century aristocrat (there lies the comedy): a Russian Lieutenant, in the midst of battle against the Germans, saves the German Commander's daughter from being raped by his own troops, only to rape her in her room later in the night after she has taken a sleeping potion. This is only implied, but the rest of the film will consist of the Russian Lieutenant making strange and semi-obvious attempts to somehow right his own wrong, as The Marquise struggles to understand and deal with her seemingly random pregnancy.
I can only imagine that, to Eric Rohmer, this story must have represented the absurdity of the times, and he makes no attempt to sugar coat it or even explain it to the audience. From the incredibly polite beginning battle sequence to the awkward incestuous displays of affection, you are forced to accept what seems to you to be ridiculous circumstances... Then comes the reaction to her pregnancy: a long scene in which you simultaneously connect with, feel, and understand her pain, while giggling at the wild opinions and questions that ensue. To us, her pain is real, but her life seems fake, even though it has been real at one point.
It helps that the film is played straight and acted beautifully. As always, Rohmer has a perfect eye, and many others have pointed out Nestor Almendros's cinematography, which enlightens the already hypnotic imagery. I suggest you check it out if this all sounds good to you. I hope I didn't offend anyone, but this film is so strange I feel it has to be talked about.
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