Friday, 9 December 2016

The Man Who Lies (1968)

This film begins with a man, who is dressed in contemporary clothes, being chased through a forest by WW2-era German soldiers.  He is ultimately gunned down and killed, but after a few moments he calmly rises to his feet and tells us via voice-over that he will now tell us his real story, to the best of his ability.  Which sounds fair enough, until you consider the title of the film.

Entering a small town, he approaches a group of three beautiful women.  These are the wife, sister and maid of Jan Rabenau, a resistance fighter who has been missing since the war.  The man, who calls himself Boris, claims to be a comrade of Jan's, though his story quickly proves to have many holes in it.

Not that these holes matter, as Boris changes his story in pretty much every scene of the film.  Jan was a traitor who betrayed the resistance.  Jan was a hero but is dead.  Jan was a hero and Boris resented him, so Jan had Boris killed.  Boris is Jan.  None of these tales a maintained for longer than a few minutes before Boris has a new one.  Heck, sometimes the pictures of Boris's accounts don't even match the words he is speaking, giving us two different stories at the same time.

Now you may be expecting some Rashomon-esque conclusion where the truth is finally revealed, but writer/director Alain Robbe-Grillet has no intention of anything so satisfying.  The film ends with Boris(?) being gunned own for the third time in the movie, then rising and promising that he will now tell us his real story ... to the best of his ability.

There's a review of this film which makes the point that "movies are lies anyway, fabricated stories we tell ourselves are true for two hours", and that this film may be playing with that concept.  Which is an interesting thought, but I have to say that if that is the game being played here, it's not a game I found very enjoyable.

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