ETERNAL RETURN (L’Eternel Retour)(director: Jean Delannoy; screenwriter: Jean Cocteau; cinematographer: Roger Hubert; editor: Suzanne Fauvel; cast: Madeleine Sologne (Young Bride), Jean Marais (Patrice), Jean Murat (Marc), Yvonne de Bray (Gertrude), Pierre Pieral (Achille), Jane Marken (Anne); Runtime: 111; Andre Paulve release; 1943-Fr.)
“The film satisfied my aesthetic senses.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The influence of Cocteau is felt everywhere in this dreamlike and fluid film that opens by stating Nietzsche’s philosophy: that love is recurring eternally. It is an ill-fated love story about Marais and Sologne, who fall in love but who have no control over their lives. This is an updated fable of the Teutonic lovers, Tristan and Isolde.
Because the stars looked so German and blond it made the film unpopular in Paris when shown during the heart of WW11. It is now considered to be a film classic, outliving the initial rejection.
Murat is the wealthy, middle-aged uncle of Marais, who is lonely in his castle since his wife died, and has invited Marais and his deceased wife’s obnoxious sister (Yvonne de Bray), and her useless husband, and evil dwarf son, who is 24-years-old, to live with him. Marais feels sorry for his kind uncle and tells him he will go across the country and bring back a young and beautiful bride for him, so that he won’t be lonely. Murat brings Sologne back, but finds that he himself has fallen in love with her.
I did not feel that there was real passion onscreen between the lovers, though I could accept their love intellectually and could understand that their fate was to die next to each other…but, it was the dwarf (Pieral) who towered over all the others. His malevolent role is a classic in evil as he spies on everyone in the castle, manipulates his possessive and nasty mother, treats his drippy father with disdain, and taunts Marais.
The film satisfied my aesthetic senses. I thought it had magical qualities and enough of a brooding atmosphere to make up for my inability to be won over by Sologne’s performance. She was the weak link in this otherwise forceful film.
REVIEWED ON 10/20/98 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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