"Monsieur X on the Double Track" Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Alain Robbe-Grillet

Alain Robbe-Grillet 1961

Even before writing the scenario of Last Year at Marienbad, Robbe-Grillet was described by a number of critics as an author of "cinematographic" novels. When he began to write and produce films, the general question of the relatonships between his literary works and the art of the film gave rise to further studies involving the comparative analysis of novel and film, raising new questions in a long-standing controversy.

Is Last Year at Marienbad a film, a novel, or both simultaneously? Can the scenario be studied or judged apart from the film? For some, like Bernard Pingaud, the text is difficult, if not impossible, to read, or at best "of very little interest [. . .] for one who has not seen Marienbad"; for Jean Thibaudeau, the published text of Marienbad" is, in a way, the extraordinary novel of a man inventing a film,"[1] just as In the Labyrinth may be seen as the novel of a man writing a novel. The text of the book is a modified shooting script, with the original pages, done in the French style of sound and images given on opposite pages, merged into a single running text. Comparing the cine-roman to the original scenario (with its system of facing pages), we find that the melding of the two parts, done in a manner similar to the shuffling together of a deck of cards divided into two piles, has hardly affected the impression of simultaneity produced by the two-page system, while at the same time the "integrated" text creates a different impression. Mixing the sound text and the visual text on a single page serves immediately to convert a film into a narration. Since all of the text that is not heard in the film—everything except the dialogues—is written with neutral precision, almost "without style" (suggestive of the "neutral style" that Sartre once proposed for novels), while the speeches, and especially X's long monologue running intermittently throughout the film, are in a mannered style, new poetic and almost baroque, the reader of the text becomes aware of a duality of tone that is not apparent when one sees the film. On the screen, everything described in the neutral style (descriptions of rooms, furniture, costumes, gestures, actions) is transformed by the camera into a poetic-baroque visual equivalent which corresponds to the style used in the dialogues, giving the spectacle a perfect unity of tone. The reader possessing only the printed text, and who must by him-self visualise settings, actions, and the like, is obviously at a disadvantage, while viewers of the movie will at the least have a common store of visual images determined by the film itself. The photographic reproductions in the book are a poor substitute for the screen and cover at best a very small number of scenes.

Since Last Year at Marienbad was, after all, conceived and written to be filmed, it is best in my view to consider the work primarily in its cinematographic form, referring to the printed text only when it contains developments, specific information, or differences from the film capable of throwing additional light on the flow of images and the continuity of the sound track.

Is it possible to relate the story of Marienbad? Various critics, as well as Robbe-Grillet himself, have written resumes. But there is a wide gap between a resume and an analysis of the work: the more one tries in a resume to remain faithful to the unfolding of the film, the closer one comes to a total reproduction of the scenario. At a distance, an over-all action seems to unfold; close up, the instantaneous reality of the individual scenes dominates. Between the two limits, the observer finds himself relying on efforts at rational coordination, logical assembling of elements, or the use of a preconceived pattern of events to impose on the sequences and scenes an order that cannot be other than arbitrary, whatever organizing principle is followed: the existence or nonexistence of "last year," the degree of reality of the images, attribution to one or another character of the filmed mental "phantasms," and the like. Since the action develops not only outside, but in opposition to, such fictional coordinates, it becomes obvious that any "explanation" is doomed to failure. In view of this fact, how can Robbe-Grillet and Resnais both claim that Marienbad is "a victory for realism"? It is a question to be answered later.

As for the plot of the film, let Robbe-Grillet's account serve as a resume. His preface to Marienbad is one of the most complete commentaries that the author has ever made on his works. Here is his summary, abridged:

The whole film is in fact the story of a persuasion, what is involved is a reality that the hero creates by his own vision, through his own words. [. . .] Is all takes place in a luxury hotel, a sort of international palace.[. . .] An unnamed man goes from room to room [. . .], walks down interminable corridors. [. . .] His glance moves from one nameless face to another nameless face. But it always comes back to one face, that of a certain young woman. [. . .] To her, then, he offers [. . .] a past, a future, freedom. He tells her that they have already met, a year ago, that they became lovers, that he has returned now to this rendezvous which she herself had made, and that he will take her away with him. Is the stranger an ordinary seducer? Is he mad? Or is he merely confusing two faces? The young woman, in any case, takes it all at first as a game. [. . .] But the man is serious. Obstinate, solemn, certain of this past story which he discloses, little by little, he becomes insistent, he furnishes proof.... And the young woman, gradually, as if regretfully, yields ground. Then she becomes frightened. She stiffens. She does not wish to leave the other man [. . .] who watches over her and who is perhaps her husband. But the story told by the stranger becomes more and more real; irresistibly, it becomes more and more true. The present and the past have, besides, finally become fused, while the growing tension among the three protagonists creates in the mind of the heroine tragic phantasms: rape, murder, suicide. . . .

Then, all at once, she is ready to give in. She has already given in, in fact, a long time ago. After a last effort to escape [. . .] she seems to accept her role as the woman that the stranger has been expecting, and appears ready to go away with him, toward something [. . .], love, poetry, freedom ... or, perhaps, death.... [Pp. 13-14] [2]

The preface to Marienbad states a number of principles of cinematic theory. The film is the ideal means, according to Robbe-Grillet, of expressing "mental reality." Images on the screen exist in an "eternal present"; they are the kind of inner pictures that each of us forms mentally, especially at moments of great psychological tension. They are the "inner cinema" of our life, made up of memories, projected desires, objectified hypotheses, and fears, which in a sense imply that communication between human beings may be termed an "exchange of views," an exchange of a visual nature that the movies can best represent. In the interview previously cited, Robbe-Grillet develops the same point:

Robbe-Grillet: The whole question boils down to whether the uncertainty that impregnates the images of the film is exaggerated in comparison with what we experience in ordinary life. [. . .]

For myself, it seems to me that things really happen that way. There is between these characters, a passionate experience, of the type which for all of us contains the largest proportion of contra-diction, doubts, phantasms. Marienbad is the kind of obscure story which we all live in our emotional crises, in our love affairs, in our affective life. [. . .] And again I say, the main concern is realism. [Les Cahiers du Cinema, No. 121, Sept. 1961, p. 12]

The great paradox here is that a supposedly "realistic" work (at least so far as its psychology goes) can have provoked among its critics such an abundance of differing interpretations, or of interpretative "patterns," whose irrealism is manifest, and whose effect is to destroy any realism of the film in the ordinary sense of the term. Resnais himself not only declared in many interviews that he accepted the "reality" of the previous year at Marienbad, related by X, but even published a graphlike drawing which divides the scenes into one week of past time and one week of present time, plus an indefinite or imaginary time zone. Critics opposed to the claim of "realism" came forward with wildly implausible schemes for making the work nevertheless realistic, succumbing to the nostalgia for linear chronology to the point of recreating a "tellable," if not entirely conventional, story.[3]

Since both Robbe-Grillet and Resnais vaunted the "open-endedness" of the plot, we may profitably examine the most serious proposals made by the critics to decipher the "story" of Marienbad. Roger Tailleur establishes two "co-ordinates," past-present, and real-imaginary; each scene is to be located on these, according to its "time" and its "degree of reality." Tailleur does not share Robbe-Grillet's views on subjective uncertainty, however, declaring that "in life [. . .] man makes a clear distinction between the objective and the subjective, the tangible and the intangible, the present and the past.”[4] One would expect then from Tailleur a version even more "normal" than the author's, logical and Cartesian, but such is not the case. For Tailleur, X is sincere when he reminds A of her past promise, and she is equally sincere in not recognizing him: the reason is that X and A have known and loved, somewhere last year, doubles of X and A! We seem suddenly transported into the artificial world of a modern Marivaux, where implausibility may be cultivated for its own sake. Tailleur himself admits that his explanation of the plot is most unsatisfactory, and he manages to treat other aspects of the film with perspicacity.

Claude Ollier, well aware of Robbe-Grillet's intentions, gives an engrossing commentary on Marienbad.[5] His review, entitled "Tonight at Marienbad," multiplies Tailleur's "co-ordinates" into a system of image types: memory-images, desire-images, false-memory-images, and so forth. Ollier also makes an interesting parallel with Adolfo Bioy-Casares's novel, Morel's Invention, whose hero attempts to intrude into the life of a woman, already dead, but who apparently comes to life in a kind of three-dimensional holographic film. Among the "multiple solutions" that Ollier proposes for Marienbad, he selects the following: X, already "sure of his triumph" over A, is to take the young woman away with him as soon as the theatrical performance (in the film) is finished. When he enters the theatre hall, the fact that his own words coincide exactly with the dialogue of the play being performed there brings about the automatic reproduction of past events, in such a way that we understand that X, since the beginning of the film, has been "replaying" the scenes which the spectator took to be unfolding in the present, scenes which the protagonist will eternally relive each time there is a performance of the play. By insisting on this notion of cyclic recapitilation, Ollier establishes the link between Marienbad and Bioy-Casares' novel. That the first film version did not have "The End" at its termination seemed important to Ollier, but, in fact, the insertion of the conventional term in later copies seems to have been less a concession to "professional habit," as Ollier thought, than a return to the original scenario of Robbe-Grillet, where it had appeared from the outset.

Francois Weyergans advanced as the most "fecund" hypothesis an explanation of the film as a special kind of dream, resulting from a "diurnal" rather than a "nocturnal" conflict among the three main characters, who stand for "the id, the super-ego, and the ego of a single person, that is, of the woman caught in a struggle between the pleasure principle and moral inhibitions": a sort of Freudian allegory or reverie interrupted when the woman's "id" pushes her towards "a quite real lover.”[6] The interesting part of Weyergans' critique, to me, is that it recognizes a psychiatric content in the film; I will revert to this later.

The merit of Bernard Pingaud's explanatory schematic of Marienbad is that it presents formally, rather than anecdotally, the various ways in which the plot elements may he related.[7] Starting with the assumption that X did indeed meet A last year and that she promised to join him after a years respite, Pingaud enumerates the various theoretical possibilities that ensue. For instance, A may have forgotten X; X may be mistaken, as A may be, about the identity of an earlier lover (Tailleur's solution); X invents the past by his very insistence (more or less as Robbe-Grillet suggests in his preface); finally, the story has already taken place when the film begins, and is repeated as a theatrical performance (Ollier's theory). As he studies these "variables" in the structure of the plot, Pingaud also examines the shifts and distortions within individual scenes and sequences: images contradicting dialogue, phantasms, and the like. His conclusion that "the entire film is subjective" brings strong support to the statements made by the author himself.

In the spate of articles about Marienbad (probably the author's most widely discussed work), two main trends are evident: on one hand, a tendency to emphasize the originality of its conception and realization, and on the other, a desire to derive its techniques and ideas from previous cinematic practice. In considering avant-garde films, going back to Robert Wiener’s expressionistic Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, one critic, Gerard Bonnot, found "all that" (meaning dechronology, imaginary sequences, and opposition between image and sound) in Billy Wilder's movie version of The Seven Years' Itch.[8] Bonnot shared Tallinn's objections to the supposed "mental realism" of the work, stating that "the mind, normally, always distinguishes between real perceptions and the imaginary." Marienbad becomes, in his view, a precious game played by two insincere jokers, unrelated to any "human muse," and even betraying "man's ability to stand up for any serious concern." The symbol of this sterile activity on the part of a contemplative authorial God looking at the world sub specie aeternitatis and without ever intervening, is the match game, whose wide-spread popularity in Madame Express and similar publications was deemed by the critic to constitute self-evident proof of the film's "sophistication.[9]

Andre S. Labarthe's comparison between the techniques of Marienbad and those of Italian neorealist films contained several original suggestions. He considers Marienbad "dated," calling it "the last of the great neorealistic films." His ingenious argument runs as follows: the neorealistic film, rejecting the classical scenario, substituted for it an "open" script, in which scenes succeed each other in many cases without apparent logical connection, separated by "manques," or absent, unfilmed transitions. In Marienbad, writes Labarthe, we find "the same gaps in the scenario, the same ambiguity of events, the same effort required from the spectator." A certain paradox nevertheless arises: in neorealist films all flashbacks are banished as a matter of principle, since they serve to fill in the gaps, whereas in Marienbad flashbacks (true or false) are numerous. Labarthe solves the difficulty by arguing that Resnais and Robbe-Grillet (as Orson Welles had done in certain films) use the flashback not to "rectify the discontinuity of the narration," but to reinforce the present, since the pseudo flashbacks rejoin the present at its own level, and with the same discontinuities, as the scenes of the fragmented narration which "take place" at the time in which we see them. It is a clever argument, which suffers somewhat if one compares the typical themes, settings, and characters of recognized neo-realist films with those of Marienbad. Labarthe seems on firmer ground when he turns to existentialism as a basis for the dechronology of the film, calling the chronology of a plot or story "the last essentialist prejudice.[10]

If we set aside a number of other "explanations" of Marienbad, mostly allegorical (the myth of Death, who gives, as in the Breton legend, one year's grace to his victim; a modern version of Tristan, or of the legend of the Grail; an allegory in which the palace and garden represent conventional society from which X and A seek to escape through great passionate love), we may then consider a new "possibility," more or less "realistic" (as Robbe-Grillet would have it), which would fit the author's description of the work as the "story of a persuasion" and still permit us to accept the fact that the characters do not distinguish between reality and imagination, as so many critics insisted they would do in a basically realistic plot. If we must at any cost—without going so far as to suggest two people who fail to recognize each other, or who have implausibly forgotten an affair scarcely one year old—make what we see on the screen correspond to what takes place in "real" life, as Robbe-Grillet claims, and if we wish to establish a realistic basis for the subjective panorama of images whose degree of reality we cannot identify exactly, we need to look more closely at the notion of persuasion, with in associated ideas of suggestion, insinuation, or even simulation. Resnais at one point suggested, as he had done earlier for Hiroshima mon amour, that all the characters in Marienbad are perhaps patients in a mental clinic, and that he had envisioned the film from a psychiatric point of view: Freudian corridors, narcissistic bedrooms, pistol shots serving as symbols of impotence, and X as psychiatrist treating his patient A—a possible amnesiac having "voluntarily repressed" her past. Resnais went so far as to claim that this disquieting setting "seeks to put the spectator into a light state of hypnosis.” Hypnosis is, of course, an extreme form of suggestion or persuasion; although it is a bit old-fashioned today, its literature contains a number of quite surprising and striking parallels to what happens in Marienbad.

One reason why most of the "keys" designed to explain Marienbad fail is that they attempt to resolve external ambiguities (identity of A and X, time of their first meeting, and so on) in a work whose ambiguities are internal. Certain plays by Pirandello, for example, which at first may appear quite close in structure and meaning to Marienbad, are based on ambiguities that are external to the plot: even if we never learn whether Frola's wife, in Right You Are If You Think You Are, is "really" his wife, the answer to the question is by implication an objective event. In Last Year at Marienbad, on the contrary, the ambiguity is of another type: it is in the very consciousness of the characters. No external "solution" can validate the plot, but only the plausibility of the states of mind evoked, apart from any objective story. When Robbe-Grillet speaks of "mental realism," or when Resnais states that he wishes to depict emotions rather than individual characters, what is meant is that apparently contradictory images, often chaotic and "open" to multiple interpretations, correspond nevertheless to possible, plausible states of mind, whose psychological truth the spectator-reader consciously or unconsciously recognizes. Such a conception accepts the definition of the work as a drama of persuasion that organizes, according to specific aesthetic principles, sequences of mental images: insinuations, attempts at resistance, false memories, objectified phantasms, imaginary scenes of murder and rape—all producing, in Marienbad, a rich and turbulent psychic mix.

On this basis, the structure of the work may be analyzed in accordance with the chief procedures used to link successive scenes, to link dialogues and images, and to distribute thematic elements. Since the majority of these techniques are the same as those found in Robbe-Grillet's novels, we are brought face to face once more with the novel-cinema controversy: either Robbe-Grillet, in his first film, makes use of literary techniques, or else he had already used in his novels technique taken from the cinema. In either case, the procedures of the film appear to be rather exact "equivalents" of his novelistic practices.

First of all, in spite of its baroque visual quality, its sharp, shiny, almost "varnished" images, mixed with "white," over-exposed scenes, Marienbad exerts a strong literary fascination, due in great part to the lyrical quality of X's tirades. X's re-strained but intense theatrical voice controls the torrential monologue with which he guides the plot, giving to his narration a slow, majestic rhythm and a striking unity of verbal tone. It is X's monologue that prepares us at the outset for the dechronology of events ("Once more”), and which, merging with the text of the inner play, establishes the inner ambiguity of the theme and of the forthcoming action. At the same time, snatches of conversation plant in the listener's mind, like musical motifs or fragments of future melodies that will be developed later, various plot elements whose parallels or analogies in the ensuing action make a thinly disguised résumé of the film:

A MAN, then ANOTHER MAN [. . .]: Don't you know the story? [. . .] It's all they were talking about, last year. Frank had made her believe that he was a friend of her father and that he was there to watch over her. It was a rather strange way of watching over her, however. She realized it, but too late, the night when he tried to force his way [. . .] into her bedroom, with the absurd pretext that he wanted to explain the old paintings hanging there. But there wasn't a single picture in her room. [P. 43]

Similarly, the episode of the broken heel (another sexual symbol or fetish) appears first in verbal allusions (a "random" remark, p. 42, another made by X, p. 89), before taking place for the "first" time on the screen (p. 128). Inserted into this series is a scene showing A holding her shoe in her hand (p. 82). Without developing the point further, it can be said that in general each important incident is subject to one or more comments in advance of its occurrence, so that the spectator almost always sees "present" episodes in the light of some earlier and almost subliminal suggestion that creates an unconscious feeling of deja vu. In this way the spectator, or the reader, becomes to a certain extent a "victim" of X's persuasion, sharing with A false "retroactive" memories that create pseudo past.

X's glance, as well as his voice, links many of the film's images. The long dolly shot or forward camera movement at the beginning, with its off-screen monologue, establishes a "subjective camera" narrational mode that resembles the subjective mode of Jealousy. The procedure in Marienbad, however, never imitates the excesses of the notorious Lady in the Lake, in which the camera-character (Robert Montgomery with the camera strapped to his chest) displays his hands, smokes a cigarette whose smoke we see curling before our eyes. Nor is X's glance exclusive, or omnipresent: the camera often shows the scene from A's viewpoint (in reality or imagination), or from the angle of a minor character (see p. 42, for example), or even from that of a nonexistent "eye" placed at an impossible point in space (when, for instance, the camera hovers above the statue in the garden). The camera eye often "associates" itself with a character through proximity, filming from alongside the person in question, or directly facing him or her, or moving forward or backward with the actor's movements. Far from limiting himself to a strict rule of the observing camera substituting for the human eye, Robbe-Grillet—assisted by Resnais—manipulates the lens with great freedom, while preserving the fundamental subjectivity of the film. In the field of mental images, no law of perceptive plausibility requires maintaining the viewpoint of an observer fixed at one spot. Psychological "vision" or mental images can assume the form and perspective of what a third-person witness could see, even defying time and space, and without becoming the "point of view of God," which the critic Bonnot tried to identify as the mode of the film.

A complete study of the liaisons de scene or scene inkings in Marienbad—there are between two and three hundred in the film—would require a text as long as the scenario itself. What should be emphasized is that, as in his novels, Robbe-Grillet never makes arbitrary transitions. The chaos or disorder that certain critics or spectators see in the film—not as a defect, but as something to be praised—is not the illustration of some doctrine of rupture or metaphysical discontinuity; on the contrary, each scene is tightly bound to the preceding one, and to the following, by strict formal ties. It would be erroneous to see in the film's domino game a metaphor for its own structure; there, the rows of dominos, while obeying the rules of the game, proliferate nevertheless in a bizarre labyrinth described as "needlessly complicated" (p. 149). The complexity of the film, however, obeys hidden principles that are necessary to its existence. Everything moves toward a climax of dramatic tension, situated about three-fourths of the way into the film: the famous "white" camera movement in the corridors, followed by the scene of rape—or acceptance—in A's bedroom. Following this, the story, as in Jealousy, returns to its former rhythm, to a mood of calm.

The various types of scene linking or "modulation" include: the use of "voice dissolve" (X's voice becomes that of the actor, p. 31); change of camera field in accordance with a shift in the direction in which one character looks (p. 42); a "sound dissolve" or contiguity of two similar sounds (the broken glass, A's sudden scream); an action such as listening (A turns her head "like someone trying to see where an overheard remark came from," with the camera thereupon showing "what A sees, in various directions," p. 49); X's suggestions to A, usually followed by a more or less long period of delay in their execution, or by a dialectic contradiction between X's words and A's actions (the scene of A standing in front of the balustrade, responding to X's suggestions, p. 69); camera rotations, or panoramic movements joining together two "different" times in an apparent continuity, with the same characters seen in two separate adjoining rooms (p. 60); camera movements (often deceptive, because of a time-or space-shift) in response to overheard remarks (p. 52); linkings by association of sounds not contiguous in space or time (the pistol shots, the footsteps on the gravel path); phantasms brought into being by inciting suggestions (p. 93 and through-out the film); analogies between objects (pieces of broken glass and poker chips, p. 96); similar or identical phrases, used in differing contexts ("It's quite impossible," refererring once to the match game and once to the fountain frozen in summer); a posteriori linkings, such as the close similarity between the "real" garden which A finally sees (p. 126) and the garden already seen "in imagination" several times before; linkings supported by an emotion, especially fear (p. 131), or a violent negation (the series of "No!" 's, pp. 130-138); changes undergone by the same set, such as A's bedroom, which becomes increasingly baroque as the emotional intensity of the scenes taking place there increases, or which corresponds more or less to X's descriptions in accordance with the extent to which A is convinced by X's persuasions at a given moment; and lastly, what may be termed linkings through opposition, or significant differences between verbal and visual description, caused by the tension between X's insistence and A's refusal to accept his suggestions, which she will yield to only later, in stages. Even the transitions between scenes that the text itself calls "sudden" may be explained by some implicit or hidden emotion. Every aspect of Marienbad is coherent with the rest; the flow of images and words moves on with an irrepressible and continuous drive.

Last Year at Marienbad may be seen as the extension and logical outcome of Robbe-Grillet's novelistic techniques, accompanied by, or transformed into, cinematic procedures that expand or reinforce them. The false scenes and objectified hypotheses of The Voyeur; the subjective world converted into objective perceptions of Jealousy, with its detemporalisation of mental states, its mixture of memories (true or false), of desire-images and affective projections; the "dissolves" of images in the Labyrinth: all these recur and attain a new high point of development in Marienbad. The theme of imaginative creation, linked with the idea of a suggestible person on whom the creation is imposed, authorizes an interpretation based on implicit psychology; the external trappings of a pseudo plot (existence or nonexistence of a "last year," ambiguous identity of A or X, refusal of the past or traumatic amnesia) are present only to provide the realistic "supports" necessary for the exteriorisation of emotions, mental images, fears, desires, false memories, and the like.

The effort of the spectator, like that of the reader, has become to an ever-increasing extent an integral part of cinematographic and novelistic creation. "The hour of the reader" that Jose-Maria Camila has declared for the new novel has as its counterpart the "hour of the spectator" for the new cinema. This collaborative effort, which has never been wholly absent in art, becomes more essential, more critical: not in the former sense of the "deciphering" demanded by the hermetic poetry of a Rimbaud or a Mallarme—wherein the search for meaning, for multiple interpretations, constitutes a first requirement for the comprehension of a given work—but in the sense of participating in the aesthetic functioning of the novel or film. The reader, or spectator, of Last Year at Marienbad or of any subsequent film by Robbe-Grillet, is less like a listener at a concert than one of the performers themselves. Face to face with the complicated structures and often oniric images of Marienbad, the spectator must, without concerning himself with external relationships—in space, time, or "plot"—yield to their suggestive power, while at the same time projecting onto them all the affectivity of his own psyche. Robbe-Grillet's film is not only a created work; it is, in a new and significant way, a work which creates as it comes into existence.

Bruce Morrissette


1   Pirigaudis and Thibaudeates comments are in Premier PM; No. 18, pp. 23, 34.

2   Page references are to the 1961 printing of L'Année dernière à Marienbad (Paris: Munk).

3   According to Resnais's schematic—printed first upside down in No. 123 of the Cahiers du Cinema, then correctly (right side up) in No. 125, p. 48—the "present" action of Marienbad runs from Tuesday to Sunday. This action is constantly interrupted by a series of flash-backs ("last year") running from Monday to Saturday night in a past week. In addition, there are "second-power" flashbacks and scenes occurring in an "all-time" zone, apparently imaginary. Unfortunately, it is impossible, without Resnais's working script with its numbered scenes, to correlate the published scenario of Marienbad with the foregoing schematic; nevertheless, one can follow Resnais's conception of two actions in parallel montage structure, each moving "toward the future," up to the final scenes. Resnais has not concealed his own "belief" in the reality of past relations between A and X, though he has freely admitted that the finished film doss not require acceptance of his own interpretation of the plot, and that his famous schematic was only an operational solution used to facilitate the filming.

4   Les Lettres Nouvelles, July 1961.

5   Nouvelle Revue Francaise, Oct-Nov. 1961.

6   Les Cahiers du Cinema, Sept 1961 (No. 123).

7   Premier Plan, Oct. 19.61 (No. 18).

8   Les Temps Modernes, Dec. 1961 (No. 187).

9   The unforeseen stir caused by the "Marienbad game" has given rise to many comments. Resnais identified it as a variation of the old "Chinese game of Nim; Robbe-Grillet thought he had invented it, like the gentleman who, it seems, had even tried to patent it and wished to sue the authors of the film. In the game, M invites X to play, places sixteen matches in four rows (7-5–3-1), and forces X always to pick up the last match, thereby losing. As to the metaphoric relationship between the game and the film as a whole, Resnais saw it as a statement of the necessity to “make a decision" (as A must do). Other conjectures are quite possible: M, who always wins at the game of logic, loses in the game of passion; or, perhaps, the idea that, whatever the order of events, the outcome is the same: the game thus becomes an internal analogy of the film.

10   Les Cahiers du Cinema, Sept. 1961 (No. 123).