last year at marienbad (1961)
A mundane repetition, enigmatic and confounding in its similarity, punctuated by instants which are re-lived over and over via memory, eventually becoming narrative; a personal narrative which twists their occurrences to the mind's liking until they have become what is most appealing. If we could burrow into your mind and live there for some hours, taking in all the half-thought thoughts, the garbled dreams, fantasies, memories, ambitions, desires; we would exit with an unreliable understanding that may be an illusory perception. With Marienbad, Resnais speaks this language of the mind, the language of the subconscious, better than perhaps any other filmmaker has achieved. If Brakhage spoke the language of the eye, Resnais speaks the language of the hippocampus. The limitless depths of the human mind, the intellect, our remembrance. The mind as blank canvas, the promise of potential, the ecstasy of the 'beginning' gives way. Each initial brushstroke, each line drawn, a prison. The past, haunting, reaching to remember. Running from memory, wishing to forget. Fragments. Were they dreams? The mind witnesses a puzzle, a game, and instantly becomes engaged to solve it. Each time we lose, we start back at the beginning, each loss is a new blank canvas, we set it up and try again. From the first move we make in the game, we are trapped. Trapped to repeat the pattern, to lose the game all over again. Still, we start back at the beginning. We imprint, onto what we encounter, a narrative of our choosing; but we never chose it at all. It was chosen for us by the mind, our own subconscious, taking the experiences we've given to it by our living and applying them to what we see.
Last Year at Marienbad wraps us up in the experience that the mind goes through daily at our most subliminal level, the experience that our higher senses mercifully filter from our perception. We cannot deny its familiarity, our basic understanding of the images we see.
As in the film's iconic shot of the gardens, only our figures cast shadows.