Last Year At Marienbad (1961): “Stairs, steps. Steps, one after the other. Glass objects, objects still intact, empty glasses.”

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At once a mystery, a surrealist exploration of the nature of truth, and one of the most mindblowingly confounding films made, Last Year At Marienbad (1961, dir. Alain Resnais) tells the ambiguous story of a man and woman who may or may not have met before.

It sounds like such a simple premise – two people who might not have met, one who’s insistent and the other who might be more resistant or defensive about it. But this core story occurs within many outer layers of philosophy and aesthetics, and an overlapping presentation of events that affects your perception of them. The overall effect is difficult to describe. The best way I can describe the story is that it’s presented like a memory, or like a person’s train of thought. You don’t necessarily know where it’s going to go, and some of its information is totally incongruous as it changes and evolves over time. But it’s interesting to see where the film takes you. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.

I’ll confess and say that I don’t think anyone can fully understand this film upon first viewing. I’ve seen it twice and paid a good amount of attention both times, and I think there’s way more to learn about it. It sounds like a typical pretentious French 60s film that plays with its viewers’ minds, but it’s also much more than that. Last Year At Marienbad is art come to life. It’s intriguing, challenging, and thought-provoking.

I’ve chosen to highlight a number of my favourite images from the film because I feel the need to share its beauty with others. If you find these images interesting, the film is about ninety per cent more stunning in motion. The camera moves in such a fluid motion, making the whole thing feel like an especially lucid dream. The visuals are simply amazing; the set design and cinematography in particular are genius. My overall suggestion is for cinema lovers to immediately watch this film.

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4/5
Watch the trailer here.

Images sourced from Google Images and the wonderful Evan E. Richards.

12 comments

  1. Nice review, sounds like an enigmatic film for sure.

    1. Thanks Vinnie! It’s a really special one for sure.

  2. Fantastic! I wonder if Terrence Malick is influenced by Alain Resnais. Ambiguity is awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Ambiguity is so awesome! Particularly when it’s portrayed in such a stylish way. I can definitely see elements of Marienbad in some of Malick’s films!

  3. Visually this is definitely one of my favorite films. I wish I could connect with it emotionally. I’ve been meaning to re-watch this lately after loving Renais’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Also I really just want to go to Versailles ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. I agree that it’s a bit too distant to connect to emotionally! It could be a bit overwhelming if it was emotionally accessible though. Everything else is just too stunning. It’s definitely worth a re-watch! I found that things fitted together a bit more easily on the second viewing, but then there was still more of the story to be told. I want to go to Versailles too!! One day!

  4. This looks magnificent! Usually I’m taunted by the words “should be rewatched”, but here, it’s just intriguing. I’ll definitely see this if I find a few hours to spare! Thank you for sharing this, Anna!

    1. It is really magnificent! I’m normally freaked out by those words too because it infers more than a couple of hours focusing on the same thing, which can get tiresome. But there’s so much to analyse in this that it actually doesn’t get boring on the second viewing! ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s kind of like a puzzle, or like a 60s Donnie Darko without the creepy rabbit. I hope you enjoy it when you get around to it!

      1. Iยดll let you know. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. This sounds like a movie I have to see!!!

    1. It’s a really strange film! But definitely one to watch!

  6. […] Resnais is well known for his more abstract, surreal or dream-like films, such as Last Year At Marienbad (1961) and Je T’aime, Je T’aime (1968). But Night and Fog is realism at its finest […]

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