By Keith Tester
Because the Fifties Eric Rohmer has been one of many significant presences in French cinema as critic and director. This publication is a cosmopolitan engagement along with his paintings within which Keith Tester argues that Rohmer isn't the naïve realist he's usually claimed to be. Instead, his movies are printed as a sustained workout in Catholic theology.
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Extra resources for Eric Rohmer: Film as Theology
The French Revolution is the catastrophic political event in terms of which the tragedy of The Lady and the Duke is played out. In this film, the Revolution is presented as a process of self-consuming violence in which the stability and refinement of the aristocracy is overturned. It is noticeable that the revolutionaries are invariably presented as grubby and ugly idiots who are only kept in check by the remnants of the military-officer class, which is itself just managing to remain above the abyss by its finger tips.
We struggle to live, to experience real life, in the context of a life that means that nothing stops long enough to be experienced as real. We cannot be fulfilled in empirical life because fulfilment requires an end point of satiety or a decisive end of the event, and empirical life never stops long enough to enable us to rest in that way or be certain whether any event has actually finished. The problem, in a nutshell, is that in order to experience real life we need first of all to live empirically, but empirical everyday life means that the real is always impossible.
In The Marquise of O, Rohmer observes characters who are too wrapped up in their own empirical life to see what is really going on. It is a film about dealing with the miracle as personal fact (Sullivan 1977). That fact is the pregnancy of the Marquise. The film draws from Kleist’s story, and is set in the post-Revolutionary wars of late eighteenthcentury Europe. Russians, who eventually break in, besiege the town of O. The Marquise, the widowed daughter of the General in charge of the defence of the citadel, seeks to escape but is captured by a group of rough soldiers who attempt to rape her.