Ponetko je kod nas čuo za Robbe-Grilleta kao književnika, no taj je genijalac još i snimao filmove (naravno, i scenarist je Prošle godine u Marienbadu).
Here’s something odd. Both Alain Robbe-Grillet and Catherine Jourdan (pictured above) died on 18 February (Robbe-Grillet in 2008, Jourdan in 2011).
Robbe-Grillet’s films don’t get enough attention. Hell, his fiction doesn’t get enough attention. Let’s try correcting that, though, rather than complaining? Just like Margureite Duras, Robbe-Grillet leveraged his successful collaboration with Alain Resnais into an idiosyncratic directing career. Between 1963 and 2006 he made ten features, all of which (like his fiction) served to explore his fascinations with narrative and sexual convulsions.
The plot of Eden and After begins very simply: a woman (Jourdan) searches for the truth behind the death of a man she met—and thereby enters a sexual labyrinth…
Eden and After (L’éden et après) (1970)
Written and directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet
Starring Catherine Jourdan. - A D Jameson
This February, novelist and filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet died. The news was not nearly as publicized as last year’s passing of directors Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, perhaps because virtually no Robbe-Grillet films are available on DVD. At the time of his death I hadn’t read any books or seen any movies by the French surrealist, though I was highly interested in his work. One reason was that he’d written the screenplay for “Last Year in Marienbad” (1961), a movie over which I constantly obsess.
Over the last month I made it a top priority to see two Robbe-Grillet films, “Trans-Europe-Express” (1966) and “Eden and After” (1970). The presence of Jean-Louis Trintignant and some misguided information that the film was linked with the Kraftwerk album of the same name focused my efforts towards “Trans-Europe-Express,” but ultimately it was the latter film (suggested by Cinebeats) that proved more rewarding.
“Eden and After” can be divided into three sections by location: Eden, a factory just outside Eden and a coastal Middle-Eastern region which dominates the film’s second half. Eden is a combination nightclub, playpen, Piet Mondrian installation, and house of mirrors. Those outside of Eden speculate about the hedonism and crime that goes on within, while the jaded sensualists that haunt the place act out the creative rumors from sheer boredom. They live a life free from responsibility, emotion and truth, occupying most of their time with word association, exotic role-playing games, hallucinogenic drugs and mock funerals. Franz, a waiter who “feigns to be bizarre and ominous” serves drinks.
This charmed, but meaningless existence is shattered by the arrival of “The Stranger” from the outside world. Violette (Catherine Jourdan), a short-haired girl from Eden, samples his “powder of fear” and experiences a powerful series of horrifying visions and sensations. She soon emerges as the main character during a terrifying night in the industrial landscape that surrounds Eden. When she returns to her living quarters she finds that a valuable abstract painting, her only possession, has been stolen. She journeys to the Middle-East to recover it, but finds that so-called reality is a nightmare wonderland far stranger and crueler than her sheltered fantasy-life in Eden.
It’s a testament to Robbe-Grillet’s skill as a provocative surrealist that at times I felt that his allegories were plainly spelled out, but moments later I would be utterly baffled as to the precise meanings. Certainly the title and plot have a death of innocence hue, and they work both as a metaphor for the personal transition from home/school to independence/work and for the sixties counter-culture watching its idealism turn trite or grow corrupt. Yet this hardly works as a skeleton key for unlocking the full meaning behind the story. Besides, much of the film’s magic comes from its mythic spirit-quest delivery that relies more on the emotional and psychological impact of individual images (whether they be upsetting, erotic or just aesthetically intriguing) than on overt metaphors or fables.
One thing I like about “Eden and After” is the way that it deals with the nature of reality and abstraction. Like many of my favorite directors, Robbe-Grillet does not draw a clear line between fantasy and reality. However, unlike Terry Gilliam or Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the audience’s sympathy is not stacked in favor of fantasy through a tacit value system that exalts imagination and novelty. In “Trans-Europe-Express” and “Eden and After” the excursions outside reality are loaded with dark intimations. The opportunity for new possibilities goes hand-in-hand with untold dangers.
The director’s ambivalence towards fantasy/reality is quite pronounced. It is not even clear exactly how the central dichotomy (“Eden” versus “After”) is situated. Does Eden represent a sheltered fantasy world while the outside chaos is reality? Maybe the passionless malaise of Eden is a metaphor for bourgeois life while the intense escapades that ensue outside are actually the exciting dream-adventures for which the Edenites yearn. (At one point a bored Russian roulette player wistfully wishes he were playing with real bullets.). Either way, Eden is no paradise and the external world bears little similarity to our own so it remains difficult to reliably anchor an interpretation.
Though their meaning is debatable, the relationship between “Eden” and “After” remains the main object of interest for me. Some thoughts on it:
Almost all of the role-playing and story-telling that are played out in the facility have analogues in Violette’s outside quest, implying that Eden is a training ground or shadow simulation. Then there is the hallucinations triggered by the powder of fear, later revealed to be largely accurate glimpses of the future. Are we then to suppose that everything “after” Eden is merely a continuation of this drug episode, no more real than the other antics, or is it an honest fulfillment of a predetermined destiny? What are we to make of Violette’s beloved abstract painting, which eventually turns out to be a landscape, albeit turned sideways? Its theft motivates Violette’s extended odyssey and yet she ultimately dismisses it as “that absurd little painting.”
“Eden and After’s” visual motifs vary throughout the three major settings, but the tone remains consistent. Robbe-Grillet indulges his fascinated with the formal properties of image-making, particularly the division of the frame with strong lines, the relationships between colors and the contrast of abstract geometry with the complexities (and often the sensuality) of the human form. His conception of interior design and architecture is uninviting and sparse whether he is dealing with the colored partitions and rectangle mirrors of Eden, the clanking metal struts and menacing cylinders of the factory or the white-walled domes and blue-trimmed apertures that populate the Middle-Eastern village. There is often a sexual quality to his work, most conspicuously in several scenes of bondage and captivity (a theme that runs through “Trans-Europe-Express” as well). Robbe-Grillet’s painterly eye for form and composition is all the more impressive given his background as a novelist.
There’s much more to be said about the film and many individual sequences that I’d like to single out, but it will have to wait until I’ve seen the film a second time. It does a wonderful job speaking for itself and I don’t want to spoil too many of the surprises. Yet, like many of art house films I mention on my blog, it’s hard for me to guess what type of viewer will appreciate the film enough to make it worthwhile for them to seek out. Here's one litmus test: “Eden and After” would likely appeal to anyone who liked two or more of the following directors: Terry Gilliam, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Alain Resnais, Luis Bunuel and Raoul Ruiz. - www.filmwalrus.com/
2006 Gradiva (C'est Gradiva qui vous appelle)
1983 La belle captive
1971 N. a pris les dés...
1970 L'éden et après
1968 L'homme qui ment
Robbe-Grillet, Alain, franc. pisac, redatelj i scenarist (Brest, 1922 - Caen, 2008). Po struci inženjer agronomije. Od pol. 1950-ih vodeći književnik franc. novog romana (Voajer, 1955; Ljubomora, 1957; U labirintu, 1959; Sastajalište, 1965; Projekt revolucije u New Yorku, 1970; Topologija fantomskoga grada, 1976), čiju poetiku zasniva na destruiranju klas. fabule i vremenskog kauzaliteta te na detaljističkim opisima. Te postavke primjenjuje i na filmu, isprva kao scenarist (→ Prošle godine u Marienbadu), potom i u vlastitim red. ostvarenjima, pa njegov red. prvijenac Besmrtna (1963) razvija psihološko-ljubavne preokupacije prethodnog filma. Priča o bračnom paru koji se na ljetovanju pokušava upoznati kao da se ranije nisu sreli varira koncept nadmoći sjećanja nad spoznajom, odn. fragmenta nad cjelinom. I daljnji projekti, zasnovani na kriptičnoj naraciji koja razara tradicionalni zaplet, mimetičko predočavanje i psihol. identitet likova, te na ponavljanjima, supostavljanjima i razrađenim varijacijama istih situacija, tematiziraju dvosmislene odnose među likovima. Istražujući složeni međuodnos slike i jezika, zbilje i seksualnih fantazija (sa sporadično uznemirujućim motivima nasilja i sadomazohizma) ta djela, – Čovjek koji laže (1968), Raj i poslije (1970), Progresivna klizanja zadovoljstva (1974), Igra s vatrom (1975), Lijepa zatočenica (1983) upućuju na nesigurnost identiteta i svijesti te relativiziraju jasnu razgraničenost istine i laži, objektivne predmetne zbilje i svijesti likova.- B. Kragić
L'éden et après
When Carolina (Anicee Alvina), the daughter of wealthy banker Georges de Saxe (Philippe Noiret), is reported kidnapped, it is upsetting to him even though he knows it isn’t true. The kidnappers have taken the wrong person. The banker hires Frantz (Jean-Louis Trintignant) a disheveled, seedy detective to find his daughter and hide her safely away. She soon finds herself in a fantasyland whorehouse, where all kinds of extreme perversions are routinely practiced. There, a near-double of her father whips and then seduces her. Eventually, she and the private eye escape or leave, having extorted the kidnapping money from the girl’s father. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi