Five participants successfully finished five-week long Film Criticism workshop mentored by Jonathan Rosenbaum: Daria Blažević, Matija Krstičević, Nikola Radić, Višnja Vukašinović and Vida Zelić. The films they wrote about were Last Year at Marienbad (1961) directed by Alain Resnais, Rio Bravo (1959) directed by Howard Hawks, Enchanted Desna (1964) directed by Yuliya Solntseva, and Rear Window (1954) by Alfred Hitchcock.
Jonathan wrote his impressions about the workshop on his website:
Even though not all of the seven students, located in different parts of Serbia and Croatia, made it to the end of the workshop – which was conducted via emails shared by everyone before our 105-minute “in-person” gathering — I told the five who made it through that they were the brightest reviewers I’ve ever been lucky enough to teach, even though the English they wrote in was their second language.
22nd of March 2021
Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Alain Resnais
Romantic frustrations, humiliation by rivals, repetition and symbolism, as well as trying to find one’s way through a labyrinth-like space and time inhabited by intimidating figures; the experience of Last Year at Marienbad corresponds to the experience of a troubled dream. In addition to the disorienting and nightmarish uncertainty of a dream, it has a similarly amusing absurdity to it. Perhaps that is how Last Year at Marienbad manages to convey a truth about romance, desire and rivalry, despite seeming so artificial and separate from our reality.
While our viewpoint glides through intricately decorated hallways, a male voice repeats a description of the space over and over again, rhythmically fading in and out, conveying no precise narrative, but a feeling of melancholic apprehension. The eerie, yet playful atmosphere is established at the very beginning and remains artfully constant throughout the film, gripping our attention, despite the lack of a cohesive narrative. Also immediately established is a commentary on the space and the people that inhabit it. It’s a luxurious, yet outdated and oppressive place belonging to the past, with stiff, upper-class, statue-like characters, who engage in repetitive conversations. The same is true of the film’s three main “characters”, if one can call them that.
A man is trying to make a woman remember they had met last year, and she is convinced that did not happen. Or is she? Sometimes, she acts as if she remembers something happening, but other times she seems adamant the man must be mistaken. The woman is not only ambiguous about what she remembers, but also about how she feels about the man. One moment, she is apprehensive, begging him to leave her alone, the next she seems to seek out his company. Every scene between them is like a new round of a strange game. Another man, possibly the current partner of the woman, repeatedly defeats the first man in a parlour game, mirroring their rivalry for the woman, as well as their game-like relationship. She is also ambiguous about her feelings towards this other man, but mostly seems frightened of him. He is reminiscent of the quintessential horror film villain: extremely tall, pale and dark-haired, with striking features and a deep, authoritative voice. He is at times gentle, at times suspicious and abusive towards the woman.
The film unfolds in a series of variations between the three of them, achieving a playful ambiguity and never deciding on a single resolution. It’s as if the film is trying to explore all possible scenarios of a love triangle – a story that has similarly been told over and over again in the oppressive, stuffy and outdated château that is the Western canon. In doing so, however, it doesn’t avoid the real, familiar and painful experience of a love affair.
Rad Kino kluba Split podržavaju Hrvatski audiovizualni centar, Društvo hrvatskih filmskih redatelja, Grad Split i Zaklada Kultura nova. Voditeljica programa je Sunčica Fradelić.