Friday, 25 November 2016

The Immortal One (1963)

Alain Robbe-Grillet's debut feature is elegantly shot - quite an accomplishment given that members of his crew were actively working to undermine his direction - and features some interesting use of sound.  There's deliberately intrusive aural interjections on several occasions, for instance, and equally deliberate repetition of dialogue.  It's very stylish.

On the other hand, it's also narratively opaque, with events depicted out of order, characters lying without explanation of their motives, and frequent snippets of dialogue about the unreality of the city in which the events take place - clearly a none to subtle reminder that just because a scene appears in the film doesn't mean it actually happened to the characters shown in it.

Now sure, all this obfuscation of the basic plot - man meets woman, has probable sexual relationship with her, then searches for her when she disappears, with tragic consequences - is just as deliberate as the discordant soundtrack.  But obfuscating narrative doesn't impress me very much.  It doesn't require much skill to write a story that's hard to follow, after all.  Plenty of people do it entirely by accident.

If you're the kind of person who can set aside the film's deliberately obtuse story-telling and just savour the dreamy atmosphere, you'll probably enjoy The Immortal One.  But for me personally the film's strengths were not enough to overcome its weaknesses.

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