Film: Last Year at Marienbad

Last Year at Marienbad is a Surrealist 1961 French film directed by Alain Resnais.

At a European chateau resort for the rich, a man runs into a woman whom he claims to have met before, specifically last year at the resort town Marienbad. She repeatedly denies this, although it is unclear if she is lying or not. Further complicating things is a second man (who may or may not be the woman's husband) who keeps finding ways to demean the first, particularly during repeated games of Nim.

At least, that seems to be the plot.

It is worth noting that the movie is heavily self-referential: if you pay attention, a lot of what seems to come out of nowhere has either been subtly set up earlier, or ties into something later. It's extremely complex, and has a Love It or Hate It reputation even among art film fans.

Tropes Associated With This Movie

  • Alien Geometries: Resnais shot the film in several different European castles, then edited it together in such a way as to create a disorienting, unclear sense of the scale and structure of the castle.
  • The Beautiful Elite: The movie takes place at a castle resort for the extremely wealthy, what else did you expect?
  • Big Fancy House
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Nearly every single thing in the movie refers back to something else.
  • Costume Porn: And lots of it. Tends to happen when one of your costumers is Coco Chanel.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers
  • Game of Nim: Trope Maker.
  • Le Film Artistique
  • Mind Screw: And how.
  • No Name Given: None of the main characters are given names. In the script, the woman is "A", the first man is "X" and the second is "M".
  • Rape Discretion Shot: It seems to happen, maybe... it's not very clear. The man even tries to correct himself when he thinks about it.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Every last one of the men.
  • Shout-Out:
    • At about the 13 minute mark you can see a stairwell where a cut-out of Alfred Hitchcock is barely visible.
    • One scene of Delphine Seyrig lounging on the bed is a hommage to Gilda, using similar lighting and costume.
  • Scenery Porn: The castle setting is as much a character as the actors, with lots of tracking and wide shots to take it all in.

Alternative Title(s):

Last Year At Marienbad