Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 16

The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press.

All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com 137


Adaptation Vol. 0 , No. 0 , pp. 1 15
doi: 10.1093/adaptation/apr019
The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press.
All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com 1
Total Cinema , Literature, and Testimonial in the
Early Films of Alain Resnais
M. MARTIN GUINEY
Abstract The complex and sometimes antagonistic relationship between lm and literature
reached an important milestone during the era of the French Nouvelle Vague. Both levels in which
literature and lm compete with and contaminate one another, the concrete (words) and the
abstract (narrative), are at play in Alain Resnais s early collaborations with contemporary authors,
especially Last Year at Marienbad (1961). The competition between printed word and moving
image appears as a crucial difference between the opening credit sequence as it appears in
Resnais s lm, and as described in Alain Robbe-Grillet s screenplay; this example of Resnais s
refusal to follow Robbe-Grillet s text suggests a more profound disagreement concerning lm s
status as a document of the past. The fact that lm is the record of an event, however articial the
event may be, allows Resnais to resist Robbe-Grillet s totalizing modernist aesthetic by in effect
denying lm s claim to producing a virtual reality independent from human experience. A similar
tension occurs in the seldom-discussed intertextual relationship between the Marienbad screen-
play and the 1940 novella The Invention of Morel by Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares, which
centres on total cinema , the dream of a technology that can produce a perfect recording indis-
tinguishable from the original. By insisting on the testimonial function of both lm and text, Resnais
advanced the literature-lm dualism beyond the stalemate of admiration and denigration that
characterized many lms of the French Nouvelle Vague.
Keywords Alain Resnais , Alain Robbe-Grillet , Andr Bazin , total cinema , Nouvelle Vague , Last
Year at Marienbad .
In the 1950s, the articles published in Les Cahiers du cinma by the cinephiles who became
famous as the Nouvelle Vague often betrayed a tense and ambiguous relationship between
literature and lm. Franois Truffaut s use of the specically literary term auteur to
designate a director in his 1955 article Ali Baba et la politique des auteurs , for
example, implied that the conventional, purely cinematic term ralisateur lacked artistic
legitimacy. When they progressed from lm criticism to lmmaking, members of the
Nouvelle Vague continued to regard literature and the print medium with a mixture of
deance and deference, acutely aware of the second-class status of cinema. Many of
their works promoted lm s autonomy from literature, yet subverted it with repeated
homage to literary authors, books, and literariness in general. The deant aspect of
the relationship had deep roots; one of the traditions against which the critics of Cahiers
du cinma rebelled was the assumption that lm was not only a successor to literature
historically but also its inferior artistically, destined to adapt novels and to translate
* Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Kenyon College. E-mail: guiney@kenyon.edu
Adaptation Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 137151
doi:10.1093/adaptation/apr019
Advance Access publication 7 October 2011
2 M. MARTIN GUINEY
literary culture into popular entertainment. This is, of course, a common theme in
accounts of lm s path to artistic legitimacy: David Bordwell wrote that For many years
after the invention of cinema, most well-educated people thought that lm could
acquire prestige only by aping great works of drama or literature (44). The discipline
of lm studies was founded in part as a reaction against such prejudice. Nouvelle Vague
theorist Andr Bazin s What Is Cinema? (1958 63) was one of many statements, such as
Rudolf Arnheim s Film (1933), or Maurice Bardche and Robert Brasillach s Histoire du
cinma (1935) that based the artistic legitimacy of lm precisely on characteristics absent
from other art forms, especially from literature. Nouvelle Vague lmmakers appealed to
this tradition by attacking the literary-dominated tradition of the adaptation and
promoting emancipation from the predominance of scriptwriters (Lanzoni 210).
The opposing tendency to want to pay homage to literature, even to the point of
acknowledging its superiority, as if the lmmakers themselves were frustrated novelists,
complicates the traditional narrative of lm s self-legitimation considerably. Michel
Marie, in his history of the movement, points to this paradox by contrasting the lm-
makers emphasis on the lmic with their obsession with the literary: for example,
including the anti-cinematic , nonadaptable aspects of the literary works that some-
times served as the basis for their lms by the use of voice-over narration taken ver-
batim from the original book, thereby reintroducing the literary text that is absent from
the diegetic soundtrack, a way for the director to offer a homage to the author he
or she adapts, respecting each word of the text (80). Such inclusion-exclusion of the
literary through voice-over taken verbatim from the original novel is evident, for
example, in Franois Truffaut s Jules and Jim (1962), or The Silence of the Sea by the Nouvelle
Vague precursor Jean-Pierre Melville (1949); both adaptations strive to preserve large
excerpts of the literary (albeit through the medium of sound rather than print), pre-
serving a nonadapted content that viewers of the lm will perceive as literary rather
than cinematic .
The tribute to literature by the Nouvelle Vague also takes the form of nontextual or
lmic homage of one art form to another, for example in Truffaut s The 400 Blows
(1959), in which the main character played by Jean-Pierre Laud, Antoine Doisnel,
erects a shrine to Balzac in his bedroom. In Jean-Luc Godard s Breathless (1960), Jean-
Pierre Melville, the noir lmmaker whom the Nouvelle Vague acknowledged as a pre-
cursor (see above), plays the role of a novelist, Parvulesco. Such deference to literature
was begun by Melville himself when he chose his pseudonym because of his admiration
for the American novelist (and also to conceal his Jewish origins: his family name was
Grumbach). In an interview, he stated : If someone asked me what I would have liked
to have been in life, I would answer without hesitation: Herman Melville ; and to have
lived a hundred years ago and write like he did (Breitbart 180). The fantasy of being a
great novelist is one of Jean-Pierre Melville s many legacies to the Nouvelle Vague gener-
ation. Godard s Contempt (1963) pushes the conceit even further, adapting Alberto
Moravia s novel Il Disprezzo (1954), that itself features a ctional cinematic adaptation of
the ultimate Urtext , Homer s Odyssey , resulting in the most extreme contrast to emerge from
this era between the prestige of canonical literature and the cultural ambition of lm.
If literature and cinema or, more concretely, word and lm, are at times engaged in a
form of competition, it is not only because lmmakers like Truffaut and Godard appear
Resnais 3
to be jealous of the prestige of literary authors but also because the would-be novelists
of French cinema exploited the differences between the literary and lmic media in
their theoretical texts, militantly defending the particularity of cinema as something
other than the sum of its photographic, literary, and theatrical parts. Such is the
defence mounted by Andr Bazin when he appealed to the ontological realism of the
very medium of lm
1
in other words, its ability, through cinematography and sound
recording, to claim to be the accurate record of a past event to a degree that realist art
and literature failed to achieve. Film, in other words, serves as a witness: unlike writing,
it must be present at the event that it records, and the requirement of physical prox-
imity and contemporaneity in order for the lmic representation to exist provides it
with an authority that words alone lack. Documentary lm, the genre in which Resnais
began his career, exploits this authority as a specically cinematographic rhetorical
device. Like all rhetoric, of course, it can be a vehicle of deception as well as of truth,
and the earliest lmmakers wasted no time in applying the new invention, rst to the
creation of ction, then to the creation of cinematic illusion. Even though ctionality
was present at the very start (Louis Lumire s L Arroseur arros of 1895 is often granted
the distinction of being the rst ctional scene in the history of lm), cinema reintro-
duced into narrative the concepts of realism and of reliable point of view precisely at
the moment when they were being challenged most directly in the literary eld. The
nave question What happened? that gave birth to the narrative genre, and that
remains a concern for forensic science but from which the novel had emancipated itself,
could not help but reappear in a medium that records acts of the imagination as events
in the world: L Arroseur arros succeeds because it is lmed slapstick; as a literary anec-
dote, it would be banal.
Film s suitability as a mode of witnessing marked Alain Resnais s career as he moved
from the creation of cinematographic testimonials (especially the pioneering Holocaust
documentary Night and Fog of 1955), to dramatic feature lms. Resnais s careers as
a documentary lmmaker and director of ctional works are continuous, as each of
Resnais s rst three feature lms also addresses the power of lm in answering the need
for reliable testimony, whether of the atomic bomb attacks on Japan and the repression
of France s collaborationist past ( Hiroshima mon amour , 1959); a private encounter
between a man and a woman ( Last Year at Marienbad , 1961); or, returning from the per-
sonal to the political, the torture of anti-French militants during the Algerian War
( Muriel , or the Time of a Return , 1963).
Like many Holocaust documentaries, Night and Fog takes full advantage of lm as
archive, its ability to provide a more holistic record of the past than mere words: photo-
graphic and cinematographic images of emaciated prisoners, bulldozers moving
corpses into mass graves, and military ofcers and doctors overseeing the torture and
humiliation of their victims. Resnais s lm also relies on contrasting lmic images that
subvert the claim of lm to being the most sensorially rich, and therefore complete
record of a past event, for example: beautiful shots of the countryside surrounding
present-day Auschwitz (a bucolic image that was quoted thirty years later in the
Chelmno sequence of Claude Lanzmann s Shoah , 1985), all the more subversive in
that they are in colour, while the historical footage is in black and white. The documen-
tarian s dilemma is that lm can record an event (the Holocaust), but cannot adequately
138 M. MARTIN GUINEY
2 M. MARTIN GUINEY
literary culture into popular entertainment. This is, of course, a common theme in
accounts of lm s path to artistic legitimacy: David Bordwell wrote that For many years
after the invention of cinema, most well-educated people thought that lm could
acquire prestige only by aping great works of drama or literature (44). The discipline
of lm studies was founded in part as a reaction against such prejudice. Nouvelle Vague
theorist Andr Bazin s What Is Cinema? (1958 63) was one of many statements, such as
Rudolf Arnheim s Film (1933), or Maurice Bardche and Robert Brasillach s Histoire du
cinma (1935) that based the artistic legitimacy of lm precisely on characteristics absent
from other art forms, especially from literature. Nouvelle Vague lmmakers appealed to
this tradition by attacking the literary-dominated tradition of the adaptation and
promoting emancipation from the predominance of scriptwriters (Lanzoni 210).
The opposing tendency to want to pay homage to literature, even to the point of
acknowledging its superiority, as if the lmmakers themselves were frustrated novelists,
complicates the traditional narrative of lm s self-legitimation considerably. Michel
Marie, in his history of the movement, points to this paradox by contrasting the lm-
makers emphasis on the lmic with their obsession with the literary: for example,
including the anti-cinematic , nonadaptable aspects of the literary works that some-
times served as the basis for their lms by the use of voice-over narration taken ver-
batim from the original book, thereby reintroducing the literary text that is absent from
the diegetic soundtrack, a way for the director to offer a homage to the author he
or she adapts, respecting each word of the text (80). Such inclusion-exclusion of the
literary through voice-over taken verbatim from the original novel is evident, for
example, in Franois Truffaut s Jules and Jim (1962), or The Silence of the Sea by the Nouvelle
Vague precursor Jean-Pierre Melville (1949); both adaptations strive to preserve large
excerpts of the literary (albeit through the medium of sound rather than print), pre-
serving a nonadapted content that viewers of the lm will perceive as literary rather
than cinematic .
The tribute to literature by the Nouvelle Vague also takes the form of nontextual or
lmic homage of one art form to another, for example in Truffaut s The 400 Blows
(1959), in which the main character played by Jean-Pierre Laud, Antoine Doisnel,
erects a shrine to Balzac in his bedroom. In Jean-Luc Godard s Breathless (1960), Jean-
Pierre Melville, the noir lmmaker whom the Nouvelle Vague acknowledged as a pre-
cursor (see above), plays the role of a novelist, Parvulesco. Such deference to literature
was begun by Melville himself when he chose his pseudonym because of his admiration
for the American novelist (and also to conceal his Jewish origins: his family name was
Grumbach). In an interview, he stated : If someone asked me what I would have liked
to have been in life, I would answer without hesitation: Herman Melville ; and to have
lived a hundred years ago and write like he did (Breitbart 180). The fantasy of being a
great novelist is one of Jean-Pierre Melville s many legacies to the Nouvelle Vague gener-
ation. Godard s Contempt (1963) pushes the conceit even further, adapting Alberto
Moravia s novel Il Disprezzo (1954), that itself features a ctional cinematic adaptation of
the ultimate Urtext , Homer s Odyssey , resulting in the most extreme contrast to emerge from
this era between the prestige of canonical literature and the cultural ambition of lm.
If literature and cinema or, more concretely, word and lm, are at times engaged in a
form of competition, it is not only because lmmakers like Truffaut and Godard appear
Resnais 3
to be jealous of the prestige of literary authors but also because the would-be novelists
of French cinema exploited the differences between the literary and lmic media in
their theoretical texts, militantly defending the particularity of cinema as something
other than the sum of its photographic, literary, and theatrical parts. Such is the
defence mounted by Andr Bazin when he appealed to the ontological realism of the
very medium of lm
1
in other words, its ability, through cinematography and sound
recording, to claim to be the accurate record of a past event to a degree that realist art
and literature failed to achieve. Film, in other words, serves as a witness: unlike writing,
it must be present at the event that it records, and the requirement of physical prox-
imity and contemporaneity in order for the lmic representation to exist provides it
with an authority that words alone lack. Documentary lm, the genre in which Resnais
began his career, exploits this authority as a specically cinematographic rhetorical
device. Like all rhetoric, of course, it can be a vehicle of deception as well as of truth,
and the earliest lmmakers wasted no time in applying the new invention, rst to the
creation of ction, then to the creation of cinematic illusion. Even though ctionality
was present at the very start (Louis Lumire s L Arroseur arros of 1895 is often granted
the distinction of being the rst ctional scene in the history of lm), cinema reintro-
duced into narrative the concepts of realism and of reliable point of view precisely at
the moment when they were being challenged most directly in the literary eld. The
nave question What happened? that gave birth to the narrative genre, and that
remains a concern for forensic science but from which the novel had emancipated itself,
could not help but reappear in a medium that records acts of the imagination as events
in the world: L Arroseur arros succeeds because it is lmed slapstick; as a literary anec-
dote, it would be banal.
Film s suitability as a mode of witnessing marked Alain Resnais s career as he moved
from the creation of cinematographic testimonials (especially the pioneering Holocaust
documentary Night and Fog of 1955), to dramatic feature lms. Resnais s careers as
a documentary lmmaker and director of ctional works are continuous, as each of
Resnais s rst three feature lms also addresses the power of lm in answering the need
for reliable testimony, whether of the atomic bomb attacks on Japan and the repression
of France s collaborationist past ( Hiroshima mon amour , 1959); a private encounter
between a man and a woman ( Last Year at Marienbad , 1961); or, returning from the per-
sonal to the political, the torture of anti-French militants during the Algerian War
( Muriel , or the Time of a Return , 1963).
Like many Holocaust documentaries, Night and Fog takes full advantage of lm as
archive, its ability to provide a more holistic record of the past than mere words: photo-
graphic and cinematographic images of emaciated prisoners, bulldozers moving
corpses into mass graves, and military ofcers and doctors overseeing the torture and
humiliation of their victims. Resnais s lm also relies on contrasting lmic images that
subvert the claim of lm to being the most sensorially rich, and therefore complete
record of a past event, for example: beautiful shots of the countryside surrounding
present-day Auschwitz (a bucolic image that was quoted thirty years later in the
Chelmno sequence of Claude Lanzmann s Shoah , 1985), all the more subversive in
that they are in colour, while the historical footage is in black and white. The documen-
tarian s dilemma is that lm can record an event (the Holocaust), but cannot adequately
Resnais 139
4 M. MARTIN GUINEY
reproduce it: the dead and dying bodies remain abstract, no matter how incontrovert-
ible the cinematic evidence. But lm is also capable of something that at rst seems to
contradict its documentary value: to record the difculty of imagining that the event
ever could have happened. The images of the beautiful spring or summer landscape
surrounding present-day Auschwitz are thus an ironic admission of the defeat of
representation, as the voice-over narration emphasizes. Yet paradoxically the admission
of defeat the colour footage is as effective in its way as the more direct representa-
tion, the black and white images of the functioning death camps. The contrasting styles
of lm, the ironic (colour) and literal (black and white), briey merge at various points,
such as the contemporary shot of the gas chambers (in colour, therefore), in which they
really do look just like showers until the voice-over narration (actor Michel Bousquet
reading the text of poet and Holocaust survivor Jean Cayrol) explains that the rough tex-
ture of the room s concrete ceiling was caused by the scraping of the victims ngernails
mais il faut le savoir [but one has to know] ; if you didn t already know this fact (a fact that
can only be conveyed by words, since no lm was made inside the gas chambers while
the victims died), you would not even notice, much less interpret correctly, such an
apparently insignicant detail. It is a case of the narrative superiority of words over
images, in spite of their relative lack of ontological realism . It is worth adding, how-
ever, that the superiority of words in this scene would be harder to justify if it were
not the case that the author of the words, Jean Cayrol, was himself an eyewitness to
the event, as well as a poet, and therefore doubly qualied to supplement the archival
deciencies of the moving images alone.
In a Holocaust documentary, there is no prior text of which the lm is an adaptation,
but rather a historical event of which it strives to be the adequation. In the adaptation
of a ctional narrative, the issue of delity is, arguably, irrelevant; in a documentary, it
is paramount. Yet in both, absolute delity is impossible, since adaptation and adequa-
tion imply a commensurability of word and image, or history and image, that remains
stubbornly elusive. After the release of Night and Fog , in a decision that would prove very
consequential for the history of lm, Resnais began his long career as a maker of fea-
ture lms, without however renouncing his efforts at reconciling verbal and cinematic
testimonial with its historical referent. In the documentary mode, we saw that he did
so in part by juxtaposing different types of lmic testimonial, such as archival images,
contemporary documentary footage, and voice over. A similar dialectic of disparate types
of lmic image, and of their diegetic and extradiegetic verbal accompaniment, occurs in
the opening scenes of Hiroshima mon amour . As the male character s voice repeats over and
over You saw nothing in Hiroshima and the female insists I saw everything (Duras 15),
the lm shows what remains of the bomb and its aftermath, including not only documen-
tary footage of mutilated victims and the barren cityscape but also lmed articial
reconstitutions of the event in which the victims are played by actors ( Figures 1 and 2 ).
Juxtaposing real and fake images create a confusion between ction and nonction
that is absent from Night and Fog , with its exclusive reliance on genuine archival or con-
temporary documentary footage.
2
Resnais thus demonstrated that the mimetic power
of lm does not free it from the inherently symbolist character of its precursors such
as painting and writing, and Hiroshima , by dramatizing the problem of adequation of
history and image, serves as a farewell to the documentary genre.
Resnais 5
In the move from documentary to ction, Resnais complicates the status of lm as a
reliable witness of an event in the past, just as the earliest lmmakers (and photogra-
phers) realized that their invention functioned just as well for creative as for archival
purposes. Nevertheless, whether ctional or documentary, lm preserves the character-
istic that founds it as a separate medium: the images on the screen are recordings of
actual (albeit often highly manipulated) events, a fact that makes it such a persuasive
medium, whether the purpose is testimony, entertainment, propaganda, or fraud.
Andr Bazin s concept of total cinema is the tantalizing dream of a perfect record of an
event, a sensory experience that would be indistinguishable from life itself. A medium

Figure 1 Fake (reconstruction ) image from the Hiroshima Museum included in Hiroshima mon
amour .

Figure 2 Real (archival) image from the Hiroshima Museum included in Hiroshima mon amour .
140 M. MARTIN GUINEY
4 M. MARTIN GUINEY
reproduce it: the dead and dying bodies remain abstract, no matter how incontrovert-
ible the cinematic evidence. But lm is also capable of something that at rst seems to
contradict its documentary value: to record the difculty of imagining that the event
ever could have happened. The images of the beautiful spring or summer landscape
surrounding present-day Auschwitz are thus an ironic admission of the defeat of
representation, as the voice-over narration emphasizes. Yet paradoxically the admission
of defeat the colour footage is as effective in its way as the more direct representa-
tion, the black and white images of the functioning death camps. The contrasting styles
of lm, the ironic (colour) and literal (black and white), briey merge at various points,
such as the contemporary shot of the gas chambers (in colour, therefore), in which they
really do look just like showers until the voice-over narration (actor Michel Bousquet
reading the text of poet and Holocaust survivor Jean Cayrol) explains that the rough tex-
ture of the room s concrete ceiling was caused by the scraping of the victims ngernails
mais il faut le savoir [but one has to know] ; if you didn t already know this fact (a fact that
can only be conveyed by words, since no lm was made inside the gas chambers while
the victims died), you would not even notice, much less interpret correctly, such an
apparently insignicant detail. It is a case of the narrative superiority of words over
images, in spite of their relative lack of ontological realism . It is worth adding, how-
ever, that the superiority of words in this scene would be harder to justify if it were
not the case that the author of the words, Jean Cayrol, was himself an eyewitness to
the event, as well as a poet, and therefore doubly qualied to supplement the archival
deciencies of the moving images alone.
In a Holocaust documentary, there is no prior text of which the lm is an adaptation,
but rather a historical event of which it strives to be the adequation. In the adaptation
of a ctional narrative, the issue of delity is, arguably, irrelevant; in a documentary, it
is paramount. Yet in both, absolute delity is impossible, since adaptation and adequa-
tion imply a commensurability of word and image, or history and image, that remains
stubbornly elusive. After the release of Night and Fog , in a decision that would prove very
consequential for the history of lm, Resnais began his long career as a maker of fea-
ture lms, without however renouncing his efforts at reconciling verbal and cinematic
testimonial with its historical referent. In the documentary mode, we saw that he did
so in part by juxtaposing different types of lmic testimonial, such as archival images,
contemporary documentary footage, and voice over. A similar dialectic of disparate types
of lmic image, and of their diegetic and extradiegetic verbal accompaniment, occurs in
the opening scenes of Hiroshima mon amour . As the male character s voice repeats over and
over You saw nothing in Hiroshima and the female insists I saw everything (Duras 15),
the lm shows what remains of the bomb and its aftermath, including not only documen-
tary footage of mutilated victims and the barren cityscape but also lmed articial
reconstitutions of the event in which the victims are played by actors ( Figures 1 and 2 ).
Juxtaposing real and fake images create a confusion between ction and nonction
that is absent from Night and Fog , with its exclusive reliance on genuine archival or con-
temporary documentary footage.
2
Resnais thus demonstrated that the mimetic power
of lm does not free it from the inherently symbolist character of its precursors such
as painting and writing, and Hiroshima , by dramatizing the problem of adequation of
history and image, serves as a farewell to the documentary genre.
Resnais 5
In the move from documentary to ction, Resnais complicates the status of lm as a
reliable witness of an event in the past, just as the earliest lmmakers (and photogra-
phers) realized that their invention functioned just as well for creative as for archival
purposes. Nevertheless, whether ctional or documentary, lm preserves the character-
istic that founds it as a separate medium: the images on the screen are recordings of
actual (albeit often highly manipulated) events, a fact that makes it such a persuasive
medium, whether the purpose is testimony, entertainment, propaganda, or fraud.
Andr Bazin s concept of total cinema is the tantalizing dream of a perfect record of an
event, a sensory experience that would be indistinguishable from life itself. A medium

Figure 1 Fake (reconstruction ) image from the Hiroshima Museum included in Hiroshima mon
amour .

Figure 2 Real (archival) image from the Hiroshima Museum included in Hiroshima mon amour .
Resnais 141
6 M. MARTIN GUINEY
that can reproduce events in their entirety is the fullment of the ancient mimetic
impulse. Every technological milestone in lm history sound, colour, three dimen-
sional , and so on brings us closer to the complete imitation of nature (Bazin 1, 173),
or its complete recreation, that he claims is cinema s founding myth.
What is Resnais s relationship to this founding myth , and the effect of such a myth
on his collaborations with literary authors? Although his lms do not display the
ambivalence toward literature described above as a hallmark of the Nouvelle Vague , he is
unwilling to resign himself to a conception of lm as pure artice, as simply another
means of manipulating signs. Nowhere is this attachment to lm s testimonial power
more evident than, paradoxically, in the most abstract and ctional of his early works,
Last Year at Marienbad.
Resnais sidestepped the literature-lm competition most obviously by collaborating
with literary authors rather than adapting preexisting material. Such collaboration
worked well with Marguerite Duras on Hiroshima , Resnais s rst nondocumentary
feature; there is considerable evidence that it broke down, however, with Alain Robbe-
Grillet, the screenwriter of Marienbad . My purpose is to try to explain this particular
failure of the lmic-literary synthesis by revisiting some well-known points of disagree-
ment between the two Alains and also exploring ones that have not previously been
studied.
FILMIC MIMESIS AND LITERARY INTERTEXTUALITY
Despite Robbe-Grillet s claim that their collaboration was like the unspoken harmony
between two halves of the same creative mind ( Resnais had kept as close as possible to
the shots, the set - ups, the camera movements I suggested, not on principle, but because
he felt them the same way I did 10), there are important differences between his screen-
play and the lm. He both acknowledges and dismisses these differences: slight changes
dictated by material considerations, such as the architectural arrangement of the set-
tings used, even sometimes by a simple concern for economy, or else imposed on the
director by his own sensibility (15). As T. Jefferson Kline (see below) and others have
shown, however, not all the changes were slight : while Robbe-Grillet was revising his
text so as to make it conform to the nished lm, he refused to follow scrupulously the
model on which he was working, just as Resnais had refused to follow every detail of the
screenplay.
The very rst discrepancy occurs, not surprisingly, in the credits where, because they
consist of printed words, the symbolic tension between text and image, between litera-
ture and lm, is most explicit. In Robbe-Grillet s screenplay, the opening credits begin
as pure text: letters on a neutral background. [T]he credits are initially of a classical
type: the names in fairly simple letters, black against a grey background, or white
against a grey background (17) . Indeed, the actual lm s stylistically minimalist credits
are in grey-white letters over grey ( Figure 3 ). Then, in the text (but only in the text) , they
slowly merge into the baroque architectural details of the eighteenth -century palace in
which the action of the lm takes place: Then the frames are gradually transformed,
grow broader [ s paississent , which could also be translated as grow thicker/more
substantial ], are embellished with various curlicues which nally constitute a kind of
picture frame, at rst at, then painted in trompe-l oeil so as to appear to be three dimensional.
Resnais 7
Finally, in the last credits, the frames are real, complex and covered with ornaments
(17) . In short, the initially extradiegetic credits gradually become diegetic; the printed
words of the credits contaminate the lmic universe, rst turning into trompe-l oeil
images, and nally achieving the status of lmed three-dimensional objects, a true
synthesis of word and lm. But in Resnais s lm, this contamination does not occur: the
credits remain in their place throughout, conned to their extradiegetic and ostenta-
tiously unadorned, abstract frames ( Figure 3 ). There is evidently a disagreement
between the writer and the director, one that happens to refer to the relationship
between printed word and moving image, or the literary and the lmic.
This brings us to the plot (or nonplot) that Robbe-Grillet invented for Marienbad : a
man (designated as X) and a woman (A) meet in what appears to be a baroque palace
transformed into a luxury resort hotel or sanatorium. They may have met a year ago in
the same place, or a similar one (the names Marienbad and Fredericksbad are men-
tioned, or it could have been another spa entirely): the man tries to convince the woman
that they not only did meet but also that they fell in love, and that she has promised to
leave with him if he would come back in a year. He implies that their relationship was
consummated, though at one point betrays uncertainty as to whether the sexual
encounter was consensual on the part of the woman. The woman claims to have no
memory of the man or of the earlier encounter. Meanwhile, another man (M), who
may be the woman s husband, lurks in the background and occasionally challenges X
to a game of nim . From the German verb nehmen ( to take ), nim is a game in which
a number of rows of objects coins, matchsticks are placed on a surface; players take
turns removing as many objects as they want, but only from one pile, or row, per turn;
the player who takes the last object loses. The third person, M, effortlessly wins every
time, saying at one point: I can lose . . . But I always win (39) . At the end of the lm, X
and A appear to be leaving the palace together, though it is not clear if she has nally

Figure 3 The abstract, gray-on-gray, credits of Last Year at Marienbad .
142 M. MARTIN GUINEY
6 M. MARTIN GUINEY
that can reproduce events in their entirety is the fullment of the ancient mimetic
impulse. Every technological milestone in lm history sound, colour, three dimen-
sional , and so on brings us closer to the complete imitation of nature (Bazin 1, 173),
or its complete recreation, that he claims is cinema s founding myth.
What is Resnais s relationship to this founding myth , and the effect of such a myth
on his collaborations with literary authors? Although his lms do not display the
ambivalence toward literature described above as a hallmark of the Nouvelle Vague , he is
unwilling to resign himself to a conception of lm as pure artice, as simply another
means of manipulating signs. Nowhere is this attachment to lm s testimonial power
more evident than, paradoxically, in the most abstract and ctional of his early works,
Last Year at Marienbad.
Resnais sidestepped the literature-lm competition most obviously by collaborating
with literary authors rather than adapting preexisting material. Such collaboration
worked well with Marguerite Duras on Hiroshima , Resnais s rst nondocumentary
feature; there is considerable evidence that it broke down, however, with Alain Robbe-
Grillet, the screenwriter of Marienbad . My purpose is to try to explain this particular
failure of the lmic-literary synthesis by revisiting some well-known points of disagree-
ment between the two Alains and also exploring ones that have not previously been
studied.
FILMIC MIMESIS AND LITERARY INTERTEXTUALITY
Despite Robbe-Grillet s claim that their collaboration was like the unspoken harmony
between two halves of the same creative mind ( Resnais had kept as close as possible to
the shots, the set - ups, the camera movements I suggested, not on principle, but because
he felt them the same way I did 10), there are important differences between his screen-
play and the lm. He both acknowledges and dismisses these differences: slight changes
dictated by material considerations, such as the architectural arrangement of the set-
tings used, even sometimes by a simple concern for economy, or else imposed on the
director by his own sensibility (15). As T. Jefferson Kline (see below) and others have
shown, however, not all the changes were slight : while Robbe-Grillet was revising his
text so as to make it conform to the nished lm, he refused to follow scrupulously the
model on which he was working, just as Resnais had refused to follow every detail of the
screenplay.
The very rst discrepancy occurs, not surprisingly, in the credits where, because they
consist of printed words, the symbolic tension between text and image, between litera-
ture and lm, is most explicit. In Robbe-Grillet s screenplay, the opening credits begin
as pure text: letters on a neutral background. [T]he credits are initially of a classical
type: the names in fairly simple letters, black against a grey background, or white
against a grey background (17) . Indeed, the actual lm s stylistically minimalist credits
are in grey-white letters over grey ( Figure 3 ). Then, in the text (but only in the text) , they
slowly merge into the baroque architectural details of the eighteenth -century palace in
which the action of the lm takes place: Then the frames are gradually transformed,
grow broader [ s paississent , which could also be translated as grow thicker/more
substantial ], are embellished with various curlicues which nally constitute a kind of
picture frame, at rst at, then painted in trompe-l oeil so as to appear to be three dimensional.
Resnais 7
Finally, in the last credits, the frames are real, complex and covered with ornaments
(17) . In short, the initially extradiegetic credits gradually become diegetic; the printed
words of the credits contaminate the lmic universe, rst turning into trompe-l oeil
images, and nally achieving the status of lmed three-dimensional objects, a true
synthesis of word and lm. But in Resnais s lm, this contamination does not occur: the
credits remain in their place throughout, conned to their extradiegetic and ostenta-
tiously unadorned, abstract frames ( Figure 3 ). There is evidently a disagreement
between the writer and the director, one that happens to refer to the relationship
between printed word and moving image, or the literary and the lmic.
This brings us to the plot (or nonplot) that Robbe-Grillet invented for Marienbad : a
man (designated as X) and a woman (A) meet in what appears to be a baroque palace
transformed into a luxury resort hotel or sanatorium. They may have met a year ago in
the same place, or a similar one (the names Marienbad and Fredericksbad are men-
tioned, or it could have been another spa entirely): the man tries to convince the woman
that they not only did meet but also that they fell in love, and that she has promised to
leave with him if he would come back in a year. He implies that their relationship was
consummated, though at one point betrays uncertainty as to whether the sexual
encounter was consensual on the part of the woman. The woman claims to have no
memory of the man or of the earlier encounter. Meanwhile, another man (M), who
may be the woman s husband, lurks in the background and occasionally challenges X
to a game of nim . From the German verb nehmen ( to take ), nim is a game in which
a number of rows of objects coins, matchsticks are placed on a surface; players take
turns removing as many objects as they want, but only from one pile, or row, per turn;
the player who takes the last object loses. The third person, M, effortlessly wins every
time, saying at one point: I can lose . . . But I always win (39) . At the end of the lm, X
and A appear to be leaving the palace together, though it is not clear if she has nally

Figure 3 The abstract, gray-on-gray, credits of Last Year at Marienbad .
Resnais 143
8 M. MARTIN GUINEY
submitted to his version of events, or if the game of seduction and resistance will con-
tinue (we do not see them leave the building, but on the contrary, they appear to travel
deeper into its labyrinthine passages until the nal fade to black).
In all that has been written about the repeated occurrence of the nim game in
Marienbad , one possibility remains unexplored: that the game symbolizes what has long
been recognized as one of the themes of the lm, virtual reality. Virtual reality bears
a strong resemblance to articial intelligence, a eld whose founding myth, expressed
by Alan Turing in his famous article Computing Machinery and Intelligence (1950), is
the ideal of a computer that can communicate in a manner that is indistinguishable
from a human. One could summarize both A.I. and virtual reality as the claim that if
one cannot distinguish the natural from the articial, the original from its reproduction,
then no meaningful difference exists. The Turing Test challenges anyone wanting
to preserve human beings monopoly on humanity : as long as a computer program
sustains the belief that it is intelligent, then for practical purposes, it is; by implication,
to deny that such a program is intelligent and therefore human is to appeal to a super-
natural, soul-based denition of human , and therefore to leave the scientic realm for
the religious one.
This claim depends on the fact that, in our materialist universe, access to the ideal,
or noumenon, is forever withheld. In this (admittedly impoverished) universe that is the
material both of science and of modernism, if we mistake an articial intelligence for
a real person, it is hard to deny that we have experienced humanity . The nim game
suggests articial intelligence because the strategy for the game involves translating
whole numbers into binary notation, the basis of all electronic computation; as long as
the sum of each pile of objects expressed in binary notation is even, then it is impossible to
win in the following move (Kraitchik 86 88). The challenge is in converting the number
in each pile quickly into binary notation and adding them, in order to end one s move
in a strategic position (a position in which one s opponent cannot win in the following
move). The advantage computers have over human intelligence is calculating speed,
crunching the zeroes and ones to which they reduce every question. During the
repeated nim games, M always moves immediately, without taking time to think, while X
takes time before every move, an experience familiar to anyone who has played chess
against a computer. M therefore calculates almost instantaneously, using binary num-
bers, exactly like a computer; his articial, machine-like behaviour (displayed most
prominently in his uncannily quick and infallible play) is a kind of reverse Turing Test ,
emphasizing technology s indifference to human concerns.
Therefore, in addition to asking the nave question What happened? , Marienbad
makes explicit the hidden aw of the ontological realism of the supremely techno-
logical medium of lm. Unlike painting or the printed word, which advertise their
artice from the outset, lm presents itself as a record of an actual event; the status
of the event itself, however, is impossible to ascertain. The founding myth of cinema,
to use Bazin s term, is divided at the root: both a dream of total representation (the
perfect testimonial of displaying past events as if they were occurring in the present),
and one of total ction (the perfect artwork of displaying an articial construct virtual
reality, articial intelligence as if it were natural, thereby eliminating the truth-ction
distinction). The problem of the plot, the relationship between truth and memory, is
Resnais 9
slightly different from the problem of the lm, which is representation, or the relation-
ship between truth and image. The problem of the lm, as opposed to the problem of
the plot, is that lm records events mechanically and permanently, unlike our sensory
apparatus that immediately translates perceptions into memories that are subject to
repression, distortion, and other forms of forgetting. But lm, though it is a very differ-
ent and more permanent storehouse of images than memory, has its own reliability
problems, one of the most basic of which Resnais illustrates in the opening scenes of
Hiroshima mentioned above: if I see a scene of post-apocalyptic Hiroshima, how do I
know that it is a recording of the aftermath of the bombing, rather than a studio recon-
struction (a question posed by the juxtaposition of exactly those two kinds of lm, see
Figures 1 and 2 above)? The dilemma of perception and memory becomes the
dilemma of representation, the impossibility of moving beyond the fact that lmic
representation, like words, exists to try (unsuccessfully) to compensate for the absence
of the signied. Marienbad s reputation as one of Resnais s most literary works depends
in part on the critical tradition according to which the question of representation is, for
all purposes, pushed aside: if the connection of the sign to its referent is nonexistent,
then only the sign exists, as an end in itself rather than the means to an end. Under this
interpretation, the question of whether A and X ever met is at best a pretext, at worst
irrelevant; it is also an interpretation that is strongly rejected by T. Jefferson Kline
(mentioned above), who makes much of Resnais s alleged humanistic resistance to
Robbe-Grillet s modernist self-referentiality and in fact explicates the entire movie as an
expression of this conict.
To support his claim that Resnais wanted Marienbad to be based on an event outside
of and prior to the images we see on the screen, Kline explores the consequence of
another major difference between the screenplay and the lm: the fact that Robbe-Grillet
specied that the poster announcing the play within the lm that is being performed in
the opening scenes not show the play s name, or else give a meaningless title. Instead,
Resnais had the poster announce the title Rosmer , the name of the primary male char-
acter in Ibsen s Rosmersholm ( The House of Rosmer ). The heroine of Ibsen s play,
Rebecca West, is haunted by the memory of incest; she at rst only suspects that her
adoptive father, who committed what today we call sexual abuse, was in fact her bio-
logical father. Her suspicion is conrmed by another character, Kroll, who reveals the
truth in an attempt to thwart the love between Rebecca and Rosmer, who both commit
suicide at the end. For Kline, introducing the title of Ibsen s play signals Resnais s insist-
ence, in contrast to Robbe-Grillet, on addressing the issue of (sexual) violence by repre-
senting it through cinematic means (69). For Resnais, therefore, there had to be a prior
event, and the present violence of X attempting to impose his version of the past on a
possibly traumatized A is a struggle over truth, just as the relationship of the Japanese
architect and the French actress in Hiroshima is the correlative of the unspeakable
violence of the atom bomb and of the repression of France s collaboration with the
Germans. Robbe-Grillet s screenplay also contains a rape scene that Resnais excluded,
substituting an ambiguous scene that is overexposed, setting it apart from the rest of the
footage. It is as if Resnais refused to place the rape the actual event on which Kline
believes the entire plot is based in the same representational limbo in which every other
scene resides, by excluding it from the mechanically produced images of the lm itself.
144 M. MARTIN GUINEY
8 M. MARTIN GUINEY
submitted to his version of events, or if the game of seduction and resistance will con-
tinue (we do not see them leave the building, but on the contrary, they appear to travel
deeper into its labyrinthine passages until the nal fade to black).
In all that has been written about the repeated occurrence of the nim game in
Marienbad , one possibility remains unexplored: that the game symbolizes what has long
been recognized as one of the themes of the lm, virtual reality. Virtual reality bears
a strong resemblance to articial intelligence, a eld whose founding myth, expressed
by Alan Turing in his famous article Computing Machinery and Intelligence (1950), is
the ideal of a computer that can communicate in a manner that is indistinguishable
from a human. One could summarize both A.I. and virtual reality as the claim that if
one cannot distinguish the natural from the articial, the original from its reproduction,
then no meaningful difference exists. The Turing Test challenges anyone wanting
to preserve human beings monopoly on humanity : as long as a computer program
sustains the belief that it is intelligent, then for practical purposes, it is; by implication,
to deny that such a program is intelligent and therefore human is to appeal to a super-
natural, soul-based denition of human , and therefore to leave the scientic realm for
the religious one.
This claim depends on the fact that, in our materialist universe, access to the ideal,
or noumenon, is forever withheld. In this (admittedly impoverished) universe that is the
material both of science and of modernism, if we mistake an articial intelligence for
a real person, it is hard to deny that we have experienced humanity . The nim game
suggests articial intelligence because the strategy for the game involves translating
whole numbers into binary notation, the basis of all electronic computation; as long as
the sum of each pile of objects expressed in binary notation is even, then it is impossible to
win in the following move (Kraitchik 86 88). The challenge is in converting the number
in each pile quickly into binary notation and adding them, in order to end one s move
in a strategic position (a position in which one s opponent cannot win in the following
move). The advantage computers have over human intelligence is calculating speed,
crunching the zeroes and ones to which they reduce every question. During the
repeated nim games, M always moves immediately, without taking time to think, while X
takes time before every move, an experience familiar to anyone who has played chess
against a computer. M therefore calculates almost instantaneously, using binary num-
bers, exactly like a computer; his articial, machine-like behaviour (displayed most
prominently in his uncannily quick and infallible play) is a kind of reverse Turing Test ,
emphasizing technology s indifference to human concerns.
Therefore, in addition to asking the nave question What happened? , Marienbad
makes explicit the hidden aw of the ontological realism of the supremely techno-
logical medium of lm. Unlike painting or the printed word, which advertise their
artice from the outset, lm presents itself as a record of an actual event; the status
of the event itself, however, is impossible to ascertain. The founding myth of cinema,
to use Bazin s term, is divided at the root: both a dream of total representation (the
perfect testimonial of displaying past events as if they were occurring in the present),
and one of total ction (the perfect artwork of displaying an articial construct virtual
reality, articial intelligence as if it were natural, thereby eliminating the truth-ction
distinction). The problem of the plot, the relationship between truth and memory, is
Resnais 9
slightly different from the problem of the lm, which is representation, or the relation-
ship between truth and image. The problem of the lm, as opposed to the problem of
the plot, is that lm records events mechanically and permanently, unlike our sensory
apparatus that immediately translates perceptions into memories that are subject to
repression, distortion, and other forms of forgetting. But lm, though it is a very differ-
ent and more permanent storehouse of images than memory, has its own reliability
problems, one of the most basic of which Resnais illustrates in the opening scenes of
Hiroshima mentioned above: if I see a scene of post-apocalyptic Hiroshima, how do I
know that it is a recording of the aftermath of the bombing, rather than a studio recon-
struction (a question posed by the juxtaposition of exactly those two kinds of lm, see
Figures 1 and 2 above)? The dilemma of perception and memory becomes the
dilemma of representation, the impossibility of moving beyond the fact that lmic
representation, like words, exists to try (unsuccessfully) to compensate for the absence
of the signied. Marienbad s reputation as one of Resnais s most literary works depends
in part on the critical tradition according to which the question of representation is, for
all purposes, pushed aside: if the connection of the sign to its referent is nonexistent,
then only the sign exists, as an end in itself rather than the means to an end. Under this
interpretation, the question of whether A and X ever met is at best a pretext, at worst
irrelevant; it is also an interpretation that is strongly rejected by T. Jefferson Kline
(mentioned above), who makes much of Resnais s alleged humanistic resistance to
Robbe-Grillet s modernist self-referentiality and in fact explicates the entire movie as an
expression of this conict.
To support his claim that Resnais wanted Marienbad to be based on an event outside
of and prior to the images we see on the screen, Kline explores the consequence of
another major difference between the screenplay and the lm: the fact that Robbe-Grillet
specied that the poster announcing the play within the lm that is being performed in
the opening scenes not show the play s name, or else give a meaningless title. Instead,
Resnais had the poster announce the title Rosmer , the name of the primary male char-
acter in Ibsen s Rosmersholm ( The House of Rosmer ). The heroine of Ibsen s play,
Rebecca West, is haunted by the memory of incest; she at rst only suspects that her
adoptive father, who committed what today we call sexual abuse, was in fact her bio-
logical father. Her suspicion is conrmed by another character, Kroll, who reveals the
truth in an attempt to thwart the love between Rebecca and Rosmer, who both commit
suicide at the end. For Kline, introducing the title of Ibsen s play signals Resnais s insist-
ence, in contrast to Robbe-Grillet, on addressing the issue of (sexual) violence by repre-
senting it through cinematic means (69). For Resnais, therefore, there had to be a prior
event, and the present violence of X attempting to impose his version of the past on a
possibly traumatized A is a struggle over truth, just as the relationship of the Japanese
architect and the French actress in Hiroshima is the correlative of the unspeakable
violence of the atom bomb and of the repression of France s collaboration with the
Germans. Robbe-Grillet s screenplay also contains a rape scene that Resnais excluded,
substituting an ambiguous scene that is overexposed, setting it apart from the rest of the
footage. It is as if Resnais refused to place the rape the actual event on which Kline
believes the entire plot is based in the same representational limbo in which every other
scene resides, by excluding it from the mechanically produced images of the lm itself.
Resnais 145
10 M. MARTIN GUINEY
Kline also remarks on the (possibly noncoincidental) fact that Freud once interpreted
Ibsen s play as part of his abandonment of the theory that hysteria was caused by
repressed memories of incest, moving instead toward one according to which the preva-
lence of stories of incest among his female patients was simply the result of childhood
sexual fantasies. Ironically, Kline writes, Freud uses Ibsen s account of the revelation of
actual incest between Rebecca and her father in the process of denying that such accounts
are anything more than the expression of repressed desires, without real-life counter-
parts. Such denial is comparable to Robbe-Grillet s insistence that nothing in the lm
refers to prior or exterior events, beginning with the name Marienbad which no longer
refers to a place, since the town has been known only by its Czech name, Marinsk
Lzn , ever since the end of World War II (and the expulsion of its German-speaking
inhabitants by communist forces). Kline concludes that The text [the name Rosmer ]
returns, like the repressed itself, to occupy the screen as a sign of both the reality [of the
prior, repressed event] and the ctive nature of the images we have witnessed (86) .
MARIENBAD S LITERARY INTERTEXT: A NOVEL ABOUT FILM
It would seem, then, that the relationship of lm to literature in Resnais is not one of
adaptation or translation of one medium into another, but rather of trying to achieve
the presence of the past, a throwback to a mimetic and humanist conception of litera-
ture (albeit tragic in its inadequacy) that is at odds with Robbe-Grillet s radical mod-
ernism. Compared to the ambivalence towards the literary expressed by Nouvelle Vague
lmmakers such as Truffaut and Godard, Resnais achieved a kind of synthesis in which
generic lines were clearly drawn (symbolized by the strict separation of the credits from
the lm proper), while literature and lm merge symbiotically by addressing their com-
mon philosophical ambitions. Even the fact that Robbe-Grillet based his plot on the
classical theme of persuasion provides Resnais with a means of subverting the lm s
modernist solipsism. As he emphasized in the joint interview that he and Robbe-Grillet
gave in 1961 (Labarthe and Rivette 4), Marienbad is structured around X s attempt to
persuade A through words, i.e. , rhetoric, one of the classical denitions of the literary.
There is yet more evidence that Resnais was correct if, as Kline argues, he saw
Robbe-Grillet s text as repressing realism to the point of denying any referential func-
tion to the cinematic image. One of the sources for Robbe-Grillet s screenplay happens
to be a novel that is structured around the above-mentioned ideal of total cinema. The
intertextual relationship of novel, screenplay, and lm has received little attention, even
though one can easily nd published claims that Robbe-Grillet was inspired by a 1940
science ction novella by the Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of
Morel ; one of the few critics to explore this connection even suggested that he and
Resnais deliberately concealed the literary source of their project (Beltzer). There was
in fact no deception, as the following excerpt from their 1961 interview (cited in the
previous paragraph) makes clear:
[Interviewer] : I might startle you, but while watching Marienbad , I thought of the book by
Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel .
Robbe-Grillet : Not at all [ i.e. you do not startle me ]. I have almost always been disappointed by the
science ction that I ve read, but The Invention of Morel is, on the contrary, an astonishing
Resnais 11
book. And coincidentally, I received a phone call from Claude Ollier [ a member, like Robbe-
Grillet, of the New Novel movement ], after the projection of Marienbad, who said: But it s The
Invention of Morel!
Resnais : I m not the person to speak of this, as I don t know the book.
[Interviewer] : It s a novel told in the rst person and founded on the myth of total cinema. The
narrator lands on an island where a machine is operating, invented twenty years earlier,
which reproduces in three dimensions the events that it recorded. Of course, these three-
dimensional images combine with the real world to the point where it is impossible to distin-
guish the ones from the other. Just as in certain shots in Marienbad , objects become suspect,
they are there, but what are they really? That s the whole problem (Labarthe and Rivette 14,
my translation).
If Robbe-Grillet ever deliberately concealed the inuence on him of Bioy Casares, it
was only to his collaborator Resnais, who seems taken short by the sudden mention of
this strange book. Once again, the border between the literary (represented here as the
inuence of one novelist on another) and the lmic appears to be sharply drawn by
these two men who supposedly collaborated as one. While Robbe-Grillet readily
acknowledged his admiration for Bioy Casares s novella, he came short of admitting
that it inuenced his screenplay; but the fact that the name Marienbad appears in the
novella s rst pages, as well as striking parallels between the two works (suggested by the
interviewer above), remove any doubt that the screenplay is somehow indebted to
the book.
Few people have undertaken to examine the parallels between Morel and Marienbad ,
some of which the following synopsis will highlight. The narrator of Morel escapes from
the law by nding refuge on an abandoned island in the Indian Ocean. Nobody visits
there any longer because of the belief that it harbours a terrible illness, in which people
lose their skin, hair, and ngernails before dying. As the novella begins, he lives alone on
the island where years ago, for unknown reasons, someone built a museum, a chapel,
and a swimming pool. Then one evening he notices something strange: . . .
suddenly, unaccountably, on this oppressive summer - like night, the grassy hillside has
become crowded with people who dance, stroll up and down, swim in the pool, as if this
were a summer resort like Los Teques or Marienbad (11) . As mentioned above, the
reference to Marienbad leads one to infer that it provided Robbe-Grillet with the title
and the baroque visual style of his screenplay. A more important parallel is the relation-
ship between X and A in Marienbad , which is pregured in the novella: at rst horried
by the apparition of the vacationing strangers, the narrator hides; he is soon drawn out,
however, by the sight of a beautiful woman named Faustine, who walks every day to a
hillside to watch the sun set, but when he declares his love for her, she gave no indica-
tion that she had seen me (23 2 4) . He sometimes sees her in the company of another
man, whom the other visitors call Morel (and whose role is similar to that of M, in
Marienbad ). Over time, the narrator hears people repeating conversations he already
heard them having, which he rationalizes with a plausible theory of human behaviour:
Conversations are subject to repetition . . . all conversations spring from the pleasure
of speaking . . . . Scenes are repeated in life, just as they are in the theatre (36) . It is at this
point that book and screenplay diverge signicantly, as Bioy Casares gives his readers an
146 M. MARTIN GUINEY
10 M. MARTIN GUINEY
Kline also remarks on the (possibly noncoincidental) fact that Freud once interpreted
Ibsen s play as part of his abandonment of the theory that hysteria was caused by
repressed memories of incest, moving instead toward one according to which the preva-
lence of stories of incest among his female patients was simply the result of childhood
sexual fantasies. Ironically, Kline writes, Freud uses Ibsen s account of the revelation of
actual incest between Rebecca and her father in the process of denying that such accounts
are anything more than the expression of repressed desires, without real-life counter-
parts. Such denial is comparable to Robbe-Grillet s insistence that nothing in the lm
refers to prior or exterior events, beginning with the name Marienbad which no longer
refers to a place, since the town has been known only by its Czech name, Marinsk
Lzn , ever since the end of World War II (and the expulsion of its German-speaking
inhabitants by communist forces). Kline concludes that The text [the name Rosmer ]
returns, like the repressed itself, to occupy the screen as a sign of both the reality [of the
prior, repressed event] and the ctive nature of the images we have witnessed (86) .
MARIENBAD S LITERARY INTERTEXT: A NOVEL ABOUT FILM
It would seem, then, that the relationship of lm to literature in Resnais is not one of
adaptation or translation of one medium into another, but rather of trying to achieve
the presence of the past, a throwback to a mimetic and humanist conception of litera-
ture (albeit tragic in its inadequacy) that is at odds with Robbe-Grillet s radical mod-
ernism. Compared to the ambivalence towards the literary expressed by Nouvelle Vague
lmmakers such as Truffaut and Godard, Resnais achieved a kind of synthesis in which
generic lines were clearly drawn (symbolized by the strict separation of the credits from
the lm proper), while literature and lm merge symbiotically by addressing their com-
mon philosophical ambitions. Even the fact that Robbe-Grillet based his plot on the
classical theme of persuasion provides Resnais with a means of subverting the lm s
modernist solipsism. As he emphasized in the joint interview that he and Robbe-Grillet
gave in 1961 (Labarthe and Rivette 4), Marienbad is structured around X s attempt to
persuade A through words, i.e. , rhetoric, one of the classical denitions of the literary.
There is yet more evidence that Resnais was correct if, as Kline argues, he saw
Robbe-Grillet s text as repressing realism to the point of denying any referential func-
tion to the cinematic image. One of the sources for Robbe-Grillet s screenplay happens
to be a novel that is structured around the above-mentioned ideal of total cinema. The
intertextual relationship of novel, screenplay, and lm has received little attention, even
though one can easily nd published claims that Robbe-Grillet was inspired by a 1940
science ction novella by the Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of
Morel ; one of the few critics to explore this connection even suggested that he and
Resnais deliberately concealed the literary source of their project (Beltzer). There was
in fact no deception, as the following excerpt from their 1961 interview (cited in the
previous paragraph) makes clear:
[Interviewer] : I might startle you, but while watching Marienbad , I thought of the book by
Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel .
Robbe-Grillet : Not at all [ i.e. you do not startle me ]. I have almost always been disappointed by the
science ction that I ve read, but The Invention of Morel is, on the contrary, an astonishing
Resnais 11
book. And coincidentally, I received a phone call from Claude Ollier [ a member, like Robbe-
Grillet, of the New Novel movement ], after the projection of Marienbad, who said: But it s The
Invention of Morel!
Resnais : I m not the person to speak of this, as I don t know the book.
[Interviewer] : It s a novel told in the rst person and founded on the myth of total cinema. The
narrator lands on an island where a machine is operating, invented twenty years earlier,
which reproduces in three dimensions the events that it recorded. Of course, these three-
dimensional images combine with the real world to the point where it is impossible to distin-
guish the ones from the other. Just as in certain shots in Marienbad , objects become suspect,
they are there, but what are they really? That s the whole problem (Labarthe and Rivette 14,
my translation).
If Robbe-Grillet ever deliberately concealed the inuence on him of Bioy Casares, it
was only to his collaborator Resnais, who seems taken short by the sudden mention of
this strange book. Once again, the border between the literary (represented here as the
inuence of one novelist on another) and the lmic appears to be sharply drawn by
these two men who supposedly collaborated as one. While Robbe-Grillet readily
acknowledged his admiration for Bioy Casares s novella, he came short of admitting
that it inuenced his screenplay; but the fact that the name Marienbad appears in the
novella s rst pages, as well as striking parallels between the two works (suggested by the
interviewer above), remove any doubt that the screenplay is somehow indebted to
the book.
Few people have undertaken to examine the parallels between Morel and Marienbad ,
some of which the following synopsis will highlight. The narrator of Morel escapes from
the law by nding refuge on an abandoned island in the Indian Ocean. Nobody visits
there any longer because of the belief that it harbours a terrible illness, in which people
lose their skin, hair, and ngernails before dying. As the novella begins, he lives alone on
the island where years ago, for unknown reasons, someone built a museum, a chapel,
and a swimming pool. Then one evening he notices something strange: . . .
suddenly, unaccountably, on this oppressive summer - like night, the grassy hillside has
become crowded with people who dance, stroll up and down, swim in the pool, as if this
were a summer resort like Los Teques or Marienbad (11) . As mentioned above, the
reference to Marienbad leads one to infer that it provided Robbe-Grillet with the title
and the baroque visual style of his screenplay. A more important parallel is the relation-
ship between X and A in Marienbad , which is pregured in the novella: at rst horried
by the apparition of the vacationing strangers, the narrator hides; he is soon drawn out,
however, by the sight of a beautiful woman named Faustine, who walks every day to a
hillside to watch the sun set, but when he declares his love for her, she gave no indica-
tion that she had seen me (23 2 4) . He sometimes sees her in the company of another
man, whom the other visitors call Morel (and whose role is similar to that of M, in
Marienbad ). Over time, the narrator hears people repeating conversations he already
heard them having, which he rationalizes with a plausible theory of human behaviour:
Conversations are subject to repetition . . . all conversations spring from the pleasure
of speaking . . . . Scenes are repeated in life, just as they are in the theatre (36) . It is at this
point that book and screenplay diverge signicantly, as Bioy Casares gives his readers an
Resnais 147
12 M. MARTIN GUINEY
explanation for these mysterious phenomena. The narrator spies a new scene in which
Morel, surrounded by his guests, confesses that he has used them in an experiment. He
has invented a machine, a kind of hyper-movie camera that not only records light and
sound but also everything : depth, taste, texture, smell , and so on, in a 360-degree radius.
When the recording is played back , it imposes a virtual reality indistinguishable from
the original event. It is only upon viewing the scene of Morel s confession that the
narrator realizes he has been witnessing for several days the repeated playback of a
recording, triggered by a power generator that is fuelled by the motion of the tides.
3

Morel is therefore the master lmmaker, as well as a character in his own lm.
Honouring the well-established sci- tradition of mad-scientists, he explains that with
his invention he has equalled God, because [i]f we grant consciousness, and all that
distinguishes us from objects, to the persons who surround us, we shall have no valid
reason to deny it to the persons created by my machinery . . . . When all the senses are
synchronized, the soul emerges. When Madeleine [the name of one of the guests]
existed for the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, Madeleine herself was
actually there (63) . Alan Turing s model of articial intelligence, the creation of a com-
puter that in turn creates the impression of humanity, merges with Morel s virtual
reality: both claim that the creation of a realist effect is the same as reality. Morel has
solved the eternal problem of representation, and also the problem of memory, by mak-
ing an apparently perfect recording of events: he has successfully compensated for the
absence of the signied. If he is not God, he is the only successful, perfect (realist) artist,
and so had might as well be God. His manner of describing his achievement is im-
portant: if we grant consciousness to one another, then we must also grant it to his re-
cordings; a debatable but provocative argument that, like Turing s hypothesis, is difcult
to refute, except by appealing to the scientically unfounded belief that consciousness is
the product of a God-given soul, and not its cause.
Morel is like M in Marienbad , who stands between X and the desired woman A not
only as a possible erotic rival but also as the guardian of the perpetually unchanging,
conventional, and ornate world in which she is imprisoned. Morel is also like Resnais
and Robbe-Grillet, who together create a literary-lmic world with which one cannot
interact, and yet which stakes its claim to truth, just as Morel claims a soul for the
humans reproduced by his invention. Since we will never know whether X and A had
an affair, and whether she indeed promised a year ago that she would leave with him,
we must be satised with the moving images and sounds that present this dilemma. If
Resnais rejects the contamination of the medium of literature understood as pure
ction (and I argue that his refusal to remove the barrier between the extradiegetic and
diegetic in the opening credits is partly an expression of such rejection), he at least has
in common with Bioy Casares and with Robbe-Grillet a willingness to create a parable
of representation that in his lm takes on the aspect of narrative literature (the problem
of reconciling word memories with reality), and in Bioy Casares s novella, conversely,
takes on the aspect of lm (Morel s machine and the more explicitly phenomenological
problem of reconciling sense perceptions with reality).
While there are many parallels between Morel and Marienbad , the conclusion of the
novella is absent from Robbe-Grillet s screenplay and Resnais s lm. I mentioned earlier
that the island was shunned by travellers because of rumours of a deadly disease that
Resnais 13
causes people to lose their skin, hair, and ngernails. The narrator, after discovering the
answer to the mystery of the island, then discovers the recording machine itself, hidden
in the basement of one of the buildings. He cannot resist the temptation to record him-
self, especially as he thinks this might bring him closer to (the image of) Faustine: Then
I committed the imprudence. I put my hand in front of the receiver; I turned on the
projector and my hand appeared, just my hand, making the lazy movements it made
when I photographed it (81) . He then records himself over a period of time, even
though he knows that his image and that of Faustine still cannot interact; what he
accomplishes is nothing but double exposure (or, more precisely, superimposing one
lmstrip over another so as to merge the two scenes), one of the oldest effects in the
history of lm, invented by Georges Mlis almost immediately after the Lumire
brothers rst introduced the new medium to the public. Bioy Casares leaves unsaid,
however, what the effect achieves: to a third party, in other words, to a hypothetical spec-
tator of the double image of the narrator and Faustine, it will appear that they are
together. Their images might be nothing but mechanical reproductions, but the next
castaway on the shore of the island will see a man expressing his love to a woman who
may seem indifferent to his desire but, so far as the spectator knows, is not necessarily
blind and deaf to it. In other words , he will be viewing the plot, if not the actual scenes,
of Marienbad .
Morel s recording device does something that no other technique does: because the
recording superimposes itself over, and replaces reality, it causes the narrator s death
even as it produces an immortal facsimile of his body, as it did the others: [I]t began in
the tissues of my left hand . . . I am losing my sight. My sense of touch has gone; my
skin is falling off . . . I have no beard, I am bald. I have no nails on my ngers or toes,
and my esh is tinged with rose. My strength is diminishing (89) . Morel s machine may
indeed take away their souls from its subjects (a suspicion that people in societies without
modern technology sometimes harbour towards cameras) but physically speaking, it
only removes what can be seen .4 Like our own senses, Morel s camera cannot go deeper
than the perceptible parts of the objects it records; but unlike our senses, those parts it
records it also destroys, and in so doing, it kills, as if humans were completely contained
within the surface of our bodies. For all the reality of the projected images, they still
are a world made only of surfaces, creating an illusion of substance.
Bioy Casares ends his narrative with a pathetic reminder that Morel, for all his genius,
failed to recreate the world completely, because he did not break the fourth wall , the
barrier between the viewer and the work being viewed: To the person who reads this
diary and then invents a machine that can assemble disjoined presences, I make this
request: Find Faustine and me, let me enter the heaven of her consciousness. It will be
an act of piety (90) . This plea to salvage humanity from the grips of technology, assem-
bling disjoined presences (a phrase that describes the communion-like faith underlying
the act of reading a book or viewing a lm), like X urging A to remember her promise
and to keep it, is the elusive quest of many narratives, and we have yet to nd the means
of representation that will bring it within reach. As Louis Sass argued in his analysis of
Bioy Casares s novella in Madness and Modernism (1992), the story is an allegory of the
world understood as a view , as dependent on consciousness or a representative
device (the perfect camera resulting in total cinema) in order to exist (308) . As such, it
148 M. MARTIN GUINEY
12 M. MARTIN GUINEY
explanation for these mysterious phenomena. The narrator spies a new scene in which
Morel, surrounded by his guests, confesses that he has used them in an experiment. He
has invented a machine, a kind of hyper-movie camera that not only records light and
sound but also everything : depth, taste, texture, smell , and so on, in a 360-degree radius.
When the recording is played back , it imposes a virtual reality indistinguishable from
the original event. It is only upon viewing the scene of Morel s confession that the
narrator realizes he has been witnessing for several days the repeated playback of a
recording, triggered by a power generator that is fuelled by the motion of the tides.
3

Morel is therefore the master lmmaker, as well as a character in his own lm.
Honouring the well-established sci- tradition of mad-scientists, he explains that with
his invention he has equalled God, because [i]f we grant consciousness, and all that
distinguishes us from objects, to the persons who surround us, we shall have no valid
reason to deny it to the persons created by my machinery . . . . When all the senses are
synchronized, the soul emerges. When Madeleine [the name of one of the guests]
existed for the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, Madeleine herself was
actually there (63) . Alan Turing s model of articial intelligence, the creation of a com-
puter that in turn creates the impression of humanity, merges with Morel s virtual
reality: both claim that the creation of a realist effect is the same as reality. Morel has
solved the eternal problem of representation, and also the problem of memory, by mak-
ing an apparently perfect recording of events: he has successfully compensated for the
absence of the signied. If he is not God, he is the only successful, perfect (realist) artist,
and so had might as well be God. His manner of describing his achievement is im-
portant: if we grant consciousness to one another, then we must also grant it to his re-
cordings; a debatable but provocative argument that, like Turing s hypothesis, is difcult
to refute, except by appealing to the scientically unfounded belief that consciousness is
the product of a God-given soul, and not its cause.
Morel is like M in Marienbad , who stands between X and the desired woman A not
only as a possible erotic rival but also as the guardian of the perpetually unchanging,
conventional, and ornate world in which she is imprisoned. Morel is also like Resnais
and Robbe-Grillet, who together create a literary-lmic world with which one cannot
interact, and yet which stakes its claim to truth, just as Morel claims a soul for the
humans reproduced by his invention. Since we will never know whether X and A had
an affair, and whether she indeed promised a year ago that she would leave with him,
we must be satised with the moving images and sounds that present this dilemma. If
Resnais rejects the contamination of the medium of literature understood as pure
ction (and I argue that his refusal to remove the barrier between the extradiegetic and
diegetic in the opening credits is partly an expression of such rejection), he at least has
in common with Bioy Casares and with Robbe-Grillet a willingness to create a parable
of representation that in his lm takes on the aspect of narrative literature (the problem
of reconciling word memories with reality), and in Bioy Casares s novella, conversely,
takes on the aspect of lm (Morel s machine and the more explicitly phenomenological
problem of reconciling sense perceptions with reality).
While there are many parallels between Morel and Marienbad , the conclusion of the
novella is absent from Robbe-Grillet s screenplay and Resnais s lm. I mentioned earlier
that the island was shunned by travellers because of rumours of a deadly disease that
Resnais 13
causes people to lose their skin, hair, and ngernails. The narrator, after discovering the
answer to the mystery of the island, then discovers the recording machine itself, hidden
in the basement of one of the buildings. He cannot resist the temptation to record him-
self, especially as he thinks this might bring him closer to (the image of) Faustine: Then
I committed the imprudence. I put my hand in front of the receiver; I turned on the
projector and my hand appeared, just my hand, making the lazy movements it made
when I photographed it (81) . He then records himself over a period of time, even
though he knows that his image and that of Faustine still cannot interact; what he
accomplishes is nothing but double exposure (or, more precisely, superimposing one
lmstrip over another so as to merge the two scenes), one of the oldest effects in the
history of lm, invented by Georges Mlis almost immediately after the Lumire
brothers rst introduced the new medium to the public. Bioy Casares leaves unsaid,
however, what the effect achieves: to a third party, in other words, to a hypothetical spec-
tator of the double image of the narrator and Faustine, it will appear that they are
together. Their images might be nothing but mechanical reproductions, but the next
castaway on the shore of the island will see a man expressing his love to a woman who
may seem indifferent to his desire but, so far as the spectator knows, is not necessarily
blind and deaf to it. In other words , he will be viewing the plot, if not the actual scenes,
of Marienbad .
Morel s recording device does something that no other technique does: because the
recording superimposes itself over, and replaces reality, it causes the narrator s death
even as it produces an immortal facsimile of his body, as it did the others: [I]t began in
the tissues of my left hand . . . I am losing my sight. My sense of touch has gone; my
skin is falling off . . . I have no beard, I am bald. I have no nails on my ngers or toes,
and my esh is tinged with rose. My strength is diminishing (89) . Morel s machine may
indeed take away their souls from its subjects (a suspicion that people in societies without
modern technology sometimes harbour towards cameras) but physically speaking, it
only removes what can be seen .4 Like our own senses, Morel s camera cannot go deeper
than the perceptible parts of the objects it records; but unlike our senses, those parts it
records it also destroys, and in so doing, it kills, as if humans were completely contained
within the surface of our bodies. For all the reality of the projected images, they still
are a world made only of surfaces, creating an illusion of substance.
Bioy Casares ends his narrative with a pathetic reminder that Morel, for all his genius,
failed to recreate the world completely, because he did not break the fourth wall , the
barrier between the viewer and the work being viewed: To the person who reads this
diary and then invents a machine that can assemble disjoined presences, I make this
request: Find Faustine and me, let me enter the heaven of her consciousness. It will be
an act of piety (90) . This plea to salvage humanity from the grips of technology, assem-
bling disjoined presences (a phrase that describes the communion-like faith underlying
the act of reading a book or viewing a lm), like X urging A to remember her promise
and to keep it, is the elusive quest of many narratives, and we have yet to nd the means
of representation that will bring it within reach. As Louis Sass argued in his analysis of
Bioy Casares s novella in Madness and Modernism (1992), the story is an allegory of the
world understood as a view , as dependent on consciousness or a representative
device (the perfect camera resulting in total cinema) in order to exist (308) . As such, it
Resnais 149
14 M. MARTIN GUINEY
describes the path o logy of schizophrenia which causes its victims to be separated from
humanity like images projected on a screen, banishing them to a world in which they
literally share no common ground with their fellow humans (16), a situation even more
clearly enacted by the characters in Marienbad . According to this denition, the schizo-
phrenic is someone for whom the modernist rejection of the communicative function
of language is the foundation of his or her relationship to the world. The artist, the
schizophrenic, and the Holocaust victim all exemplify the failure to communicate
caused by the inability of language, and therefore of consciousness itself, to apprehend
the real. The medium of lm, in Resnais s hands, is a synthesis, and therefore a moving-
forward, of the unresolved literary-lmic tension that other Nouvelle Vague directors
compulsively repeated.
NOTES

1
What Is Cinema? (1958 63). The link between these foundational works of lm theory is their search for a
specicity of lm that frees it once and for all from being an inferior variation on established art forms.

2
It is conceivable that Night and Fog is not as pure in its strict separation of black and white archival versus
colour documentary footage as my analysis suggests. Some of the archival footage, such as a shot of a
locomotive leaving a depot, ostensibly carrying victims to the camp, is artistically composed and suspi-
ciously free of the surface aws apparent on World War II-era journalistic lm. What this departure from
the lm s norm might imply, other than Resnais s desire to include his own images among those provided
by the cinematic record, is difcult to say.

3
Bioy Casares is too skilful a storyteller not to introduce some imperfections into the recording. For example,
the narrator at times sees two suns in the sky the real one and its image because the recording was made
at a different time of day and year. The narrator however simply accepts as fact this mysterious doubling of
the sun, just as he accepts the fact that people seem to be having the exact same conversation day after day,
or that Faustine is simply playing hard to get. The anomalies in the recording therefore only serve to em-
phasize its realness since the narrator is ready to accept any absurdity to protect his belief in what he sees.

4
This stripping-away of the surface skin, hair, ngernails reminds the reader of the effects of the
atomic bomb on the victims who survived the initial blast, as evidenced by the documentary footage at the
start of Hiroshima mon amour with its images of scarred, blinded, hairless bodies. Of course, we know that
Resnais had not read Bioy Casares before hearing about him during the interview he and Robbe-Grillet
gave to the Cahiers du Cinma in 1961 (see above). The similarity between the symptoms reported by
Bioy Casares s narrator and the effects of radiation exposure is nonetheless intriguing, even though at the
time it was written (1940), symptoms of radiation poisoning were still relatively (but not entirely) unknown
to the larger public. Although the Bomb was still several years away from being a reality, radiation had
already acquired some of its status as a symbol of technology s apocalyptic potential.
REFERENCES
Bazin , Andr . The Myth of Total Cinema. Film Theory and Criticism . Ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen .
6th ed. Oxford : Oxford UP , 2004 . 170 73 . Print .
. The Ontology of the Photographic Image. Film Theory and Criticism . Ed. Leo Braudy and
Marshall Cohen . 6th ed. Oxford : Oxford UP , 2004 . 166 70 . Print .
. What Is Cinema? Trans. Hugh Gray . Vol. 1 . 1958 63 . Berkeley, CA : U of California P , 2005 . Print .
Beltzer , Thomas . Last Year at Marienbad: An Intertextual Meditation. Senses of Cinema: An Online Film
Journal Devoted to the Serious and Eclectic Discussion of Cinema 10 ( 2000 ): n. pag. Web.3 July 2011 .
Bioy Casares , Adolfo . The Invention of Morel . Trans. Ruth L. C. Simms . Austin, TX : U of Texas P , 1964 .
Print .
Bordwell , David . On the History of Film Style . Cambridge : Harvard UP , 1997 . Print .
Breitbart , Eric. Call Me Melville. New England Review 27 : 3 ( 2006 ): 174 183 . Print .
Duras , Marguerite . Hiroshima mon amour, Text by Marguerite Duras for the Film by Alain Resnais . Trans. Richard
Seaver . New York : Grove , 1961 . Print .
Resnais 15
Hiroshima mon amour . Dir. Alain Resnais. France. 1959 .
Jules and Jim [Jules et Jim] . Dir. Franois Truffaut. France. 1962 .
Kline , T. Jefferson . Screening the Text . Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins UP , 1992 . Print .
Kraitchik , Maurice . Mathematical Recreations 1942 . New York : Dover , 1953 . Print .
Labarthe , Andr , and Jacques Rivette . Entretien avec Resnais et Robbe-Grillet. Cahiers du Cinma
123 ( 1961 ): 1 21 . Print .
Lanzoni , Rmi Fournier . French Cinema, from Its Beginnings to the Present . New York : Continuum , 2002 . Print .
Last Year at Marienbad [L Annedernire Marienbad] . Dir. Alain Resnais. France. 1962 .
L Arroseur arros . Dir. Louis Lumire. France. 1895 .
Marie , Michel . The French New Wave: An Artistic School . Trans. Richard Neupert . Oxford : Blackwell , 2003 .
Print .
Muriel, or the Time of a Return [Muriel, ou le temps d un retour] . Dir. Alain Resnais. France. 1963 .
Night and Fog[Nuit et brouillard] . Dir. Alain Resnais. France. 1955 .
Robbe-Grillet , Alain . Last Year at Marienbad, Text by Alain Robbe-Grillet for the Film by Alain Resnais . Trans.
Richard Howard . New York : Grove , 1962 . Print .
Sass , Louis A. Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought . New York :
Basic Books , 1992 . Print .
Shoah . Dir. Claude Lanzmann. France. 1985 .
The Silence of the Sea [Le Silence de la mer] . Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville. France. 1949 .
Truffaut , Franois . Ali Baba et la Politique des auteurs . Les Cahiers du cinma 8.44 ( 1955 ): 45 46 . Print .
Turing , Alan . Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Mind , 59 ( 1950 ): 433 60 . Print .
150 M. MARTIN GUINEY
14 M. MARTIN GUINEY
describes the path o logy of schizophrenia which causes its victims to be separated from
humanity like images projected on a screen, banishing them to a world in which they
literally share no common ground with their fellow humans (16), a situation even more
clearly enacted by the characters in Marienbad . According to this denition, the schizo-
phrenic is someone for whom the modernist rejection of the communicative function
of language is the foundation of his or her relationship to the world. The artist, the
schizophrenic, and the Holocaust victim all exemplify the failure to communicate
caused by the inability of language, and therefore of consciousness itself, to apprehend
the real. The medium of lm, in Resnais s hands, is a synthesis, and therefore a moving-
forward, of the unresolved literary-lmic tension that other Nouvelle Vague directors
compulsively repeated.
NOTES

1
What Is Cinema? (1958 63). The link between these foundational works of lm theory is their search for a
specicity of lm that frees it once and for all from being an inferior variation on established art forms.

2
It is conceivable that Night and Fog is not as pure in its strict separation of black and white archival versus
colour documentary footage as my analysis suggests. Some of the archival footage, such as a shot of a
locomotive leaving a depot, ostensibly carrying victims to the camp, is artistically composed and suspi-
ciously free of the surface aws apparent on World War II-era journalistic lm. What this departure from
the lm s norm might imply, other than Resnais s desire to include his own images among those provided
by the cinematic record, is difcult to say.

3
Bioy Casares is too skilful a storyteller not to introduce some imperfections into the recording. For example,
the narrator at times sees two suns in the sky the real one and its image because the recording was made
at a different time of day and year. The narrator however simply accepts as fact this mysterious doubling of
the sun, just as he accepts the fact that people seem to be having the exact same conversation day after day,
or that Faustine is simply playing hard to get. The anomalies in the recording therefore only serve to em-
phasize its realness since the narrator is ready to accept any absurdity to protect his belief in what he sees.

4
This stripping-away of the surface skin, hair, ngernails reminds the reader of the effects of the
atomic bomb on the victims who survived the initial blast, as evidenced by the documentary footage at the
start of Hiroshima mon amour with its images of scarred, blinded, hairless bodies. Of course, we know that
Resnais had not read Bioy Casares before hearing about him during the interview he and Robbe-Grillet
gave to the Cahiers du Cinma in 1961 (see above). The similarity between the symptoms reported by
Bioy Casares s narrator and the effects of radiation exposure is nonetheless intriguing, even though at the
time it was written (1940), symptoms of radiation poisoning were still relatively (but not entirely) unknown
to the larger public. Although the Bomb was still several years away from being a reality, radiation had
already acquired some of its status as a symbol of technology s apocalyptic potential.
REFERENCES
Bazin , Andr . The Myth of Total Cinema. Film Theory and Criticism . Ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen .
6th ed. Oxford : Oxford UP , 2004 . 170 73 . Print .
. The Ontology of the Photographic Image. Film Theory and Criticism . Ed. Leo Braudy and
Marshall Cohen . 6th ed. Oxford : Oxford UP , 2004 . 166 70 . Print .
. What Is Cinema? Trans. Hugh Gray . Vol. 1 . 1958 63 . Berkeley, CA : U of California P , 2005 . Print .
Beltzer , Thomas . Last Year at Marienbad: An Intertextual Meditation. Senses of Cinema: An Online Film
Journal Devoted to the Serious and Eclectic Discussion of Cinema 10 ( 2000 ): n. pag. Web.3 July 2011 .
Bioy Casares , Adolfo . The Invention of Morel . Trans. Ruth L. C. Simms . Austin, TX : U of Texas P , 1964 .
Print .
Bordwell , David . On the History of Film Style . Cambridge : Harvard UP , 1997 . Print .
Breitbart , Eric. Call Me Melville. New England Review 27 : 3 ( 2006 ): 174 183 . Print .
Duras , Marguerite . Hiroshima mon amour, Text by Marguerite Duras for the Film by Alain Resnais . Trans. Richard
Seaver . New York : Grove , 1961 . Print .
Resnais 15
Hiroshima mon amour . Dir. Alain Resnais. France. 1959 .
Jules and Jim [Jules et Jim] . Dir. Franois Truffaut. France. 1962 .
Kline , T. Jefferson . Screening the Text . Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins UP , 1992 . Print .
Kraitchik , Maurice . Mathematical Recreations 1942 . New York : Dover , 1953 . Print .
Labarthe , Andr , and Jacques Rivette . Entretien avec Resnais et Robbe-Grillet. Cahiers du Cinma
123 ( 1961 ): 1 21 . Print .
Lanzoni , Rmi Fournier . French Cinema, from Its Beginnings to the Present . New York : Continuum , 2002 . Print .
Last Year at Marienbad [L Annedernire Marienbad] . Dir. Alain Resnais. France. 1962 .
L Arroseur arros . Dir. Louis Lumire. France. 1895 .
Marie , Michel . The French New Wave: An Artistic School . Trans. Richard Neupert . Oxford : Blackwell , 2003 .
Print .
Muriel, or the Time of a Return [Muriel, ou le temps d un retour] . Dir. Alain Resnais. France. 1963 .
Night and Fog[Nuit et brouillard] . Dir. Alain Resnais. France. 1955 .
Robbe-Grillet , Alain . Last Year at Marienbad, Text by Alain Robbe-Grillet for the Film by Alain Resnais . Trans.
Richard Howard . New York : Grove , 1962 . Print .
Sass , Louis A. Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature, and Thought . New York :
Basic Books , 1992 . Print .
Shoah . Dir. Claude Lanzmann. France. 1985 .
The Silence of the Sea [Le Silence de la mer] . Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville. France. 1949 .
Truffaut , Franois . Ali Baba et la Politique des auteurs . Les Cahiers du cinma 8.44 ( 1955 ): 45 46 . Print .
Turing , Alan . Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Mind , 59 ( 1950 ): 433 60 . Print .
Resnais 151
Copyright of Adaptation is the property of Oxford University Press / USA and its content may not be copied or
emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission.
However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.