At the centre of David Mercer's tendentious, scatological and wordy screenplay is the figure of a dying writer (Gielgud), a protean spider weaving his final malevolent fiction from the tangled fabric of patriarchal feelings and retributive fantasies about his family's independent lives. In the gentler and more sensitive hands of Resnais, eschewing as always absolutes and glib moral equations, this hackneyed central device leads, not into a predictable reality vs fantasy narrative, but into a haunted, haunting journey through the corridors of the unconscious mind. A painted backdrop against which real waves break; Saint Laurent-clothed characters posed theatrically in rooms so totally given over to deco chic that their three-dimensional reality seems cardboard; scrambled identities (one character taking on another's dialogue or face): through such devices Resnais creates the steps and sets of a kind of Freudian ballet that is also pure cinema. Past and future dissolved into a totally compelling present tense that can, paradoxically, only be approached through memory and imagination.
Cast and crew