Considered a masterpiece of avant-garde cinema, Last Year At Marienbad has fascinated and perplexed audiences in equal measure for decades.
In an unusual, ornate hotel populated by only the kind of select clientele that could afford to stay there – the wealthy – a man known only as X (Giorgio Albertazzi) approaches a woman, A (Delphine Seyrig). He tells her they have met before in Marienbad – although she claims not to remember – and she told him to wait 12 months before they decided on whether they should act on their feelings for each other. It’s a simple enough premise that’s distorted in execution, with not just A contradicting the man’s version of events but time itself bending and flowing and distorting with the will of the filmmakers.
“I must have you alive. Alive, as you have already been every evening, for weeks, for months.” – X
Directed by Alain Resnais and written by Alain Robbe-Grillet, the pair worked closely to create a clear vision of an unclear scenario, with the dreamlike qualities of the narrative going on to inspire the work of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and Christopher Nolan (to name just a few among dozens). “Incredible to think that students actually did stand in the rain to be baffled by it” Roger Ebert wrote, reflecting on how compelling Last Year At Marienbad was at the time of its release in the sixties. “And then to argue for hours about its meaning - even though the director claimed it had none.” It’s ambiguity and visual language is a key part of what makes it still so fascinating today … even if it remains just as baffling.
**– Maria Lewis, Assistant Film Curator **