La Ronde, also known as Reigen, is an 1897 play by Arthur Schnitzler. It wasn't performed till 1924, and then it was deemed obscene and shut down.
The play takes place in Vienna in the 1890s and consists of 10 love scenes between pairs of people. There are 10 characters, each playing in two adjacent scenes (counting the last as adjacent to the first). The play starts with The Whore and The Soldier, followed by the Soldier and The Parlor Maid, and so on in this fashion until making full circle with The Whore back in the first scene.
Schnitzler's original subtext was the spread of syphilis, though most modern adaptations concentrate on the characterization of people in their unguarded moments.
- The Whore and the Soldier
- The Soldier and the Parlor Maid
- The Parlor Maid and the Young Gentleman
- The Young Gentleman and the Young Wife
- The Young Wife and The Husband
- The Husband and the Little Miss
- The Little Miss and the Poet
- The Poet and the Actress
- The Actress and the Count
- The Count and the Whore
It's been filmed three times: the 1964 film La Ronde, directed by Roger Vadim; Reigen (the original title of Schnitzler's play), a 1973 film directed by Otto Schenk, and the 1950 film La Ronde by Max Ophuls, the latter containing the famous La Ronde waltz by Oscar Straus.
It's been adapted for the stage by David Hare as The Blue Room (in which two performers played all the roles), by Michael John LaChiusa as a musical, Hello Again (which shifts decades for each scene, though the characters remain the same- this has also now been adapted into a feature film) and by Eric Bentley as Round 2 (a Gay version set in The '70s New York City). The 1950 film had an All-Star Cast of French and European cinema of the day that included Anton Walbrook, Simone Signoret, Simone Simon, and Danielle Darrieux.
The play is in the public domain and may be read on the internet: see here.
This play provides examples of:
- Book-Ends: As required by the structure of the play, "la ronde". The streetwalker appears in the first scene and the last.
- But Liquor Is Quicker: The husband plies the young miss with wine to get her to put out. And he might have put something else in there.LITTLE MISS: ...You know what, there was something in the wine!
HUSBAND: How so?
LITTLE MISS: I'm quite...you know...everything's turning around.
HUSBAND: Hold on to me. Like this...(He pulls her to him and becomes more and more tender; she scarcely defends herself.)' I'll tell you something, treasure, now we might really go.
- Carpe Diem: The young gentleman makes this explicit argument to the young wife to get her to have sex with him. "Life is so short!"
- Ensemble Cast: Enforced by the format of the play, with ten scenes and with no character appearing in more than two.
- Erotic Eating: The young wife (Emma) eats a candied pear. The young gentleman (Alfred) asks for half. She gives it to him with her mouth.
- French Maid: She's a maid and she's French. The parlor maid isn't dressed in the French Maid Outfit—there's a specific reference in the text to her blue blouse—but she is sexy and seductive like every French maid should be.
- Hyperlink Story: Each scene in the play is linked by one character who is also in the next scene. For example, the first scene is between a streetwalker and a soldier, the next is between the soldier and a parlor maid, and the next is between the parlor maid and her employer, a young gentleman. The play works its way back around to the streetwalker in the last scene, completing the circle, or "la ronde."
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Surprisingly, after all that effort to get the young wife into bed, the young gentleman can't get it up. (He recovers by the end of the scene.)
- My Girl Is a Slut: Gender-flipped. The young wife, who previously seemed indifferent to her husband's talk about reinvigorating their sex life, starts to get turned on when he talks about the sluts he bedded when he was young.
- Streetwalker: The whore who solicits the soldier in the opening scene.
- What Did I Do Last Night?: The count wakes up not knowing quite what the heck happened last night. The streetwalker has to help him out.
Tropes found in the 1950 film:
- Adaptation Expansion:
- The film, otherwise a pretty faithful adaptation of the play, adds the character of the Game Master, a Greek Chorus who talks to the audience and links the segments together.
- "The Poet and the Actress" sequence is a completely different one from the play.
- Book-Ends: The Game Master appears at the end in the same spot he was at in the beginning, talking about how the "circle of love" has been completed.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: While there's No Fourth Wall for the Game Master, there is one for the characters within the stories. Except for the end of the Young Gentleman's story, when he looks at the camera as he leaves and says "I'm the lover of a married woman now!"
- But Liquor Is Quicker: The Game Master sings about it, as he introduces the segment where Alfred seduces Emma."She, alas, is prim and proper/Each time he speaks, she runs away.../Our virtuous lady's nagging qualms/With just a drop of potent liquor/She'd surrender all her cares."
- Buxom Is BetterFranz: I tell you, Miss Marie, none of those girls had curves like you.
Marie: So you felt them all?
Franz: When you dance you can compare.
- Greek Chorus: The Game Master serves as this, commenting on the action to the audience, appearing as multiple characters within the story.
- When the young gentleman can't get it up in bed with the young wife, there's a cut to the Game Master fiddling with his merry-go-round, which has busted. When the young man finally gets an erection, there's a cut to the merry-go-round twirling again. The Game Master says "There, that's better."
- High-Class Glass: The Count wears one, although the high-class effect is rather undercut by him being markedly young and shy.
- Hypocritical Humor: Franz had to unbuckle his sword for sex with the maid on a park bench. He forgets it, remembers, and dashes back, only to find a brigadier with a girl of his own on the park bench. The brigadier gives Franz a tongue-lashing for leaving his sword behind. After Franz leaves and the brigadier starts pawing at his girl, he unbuckles his sword.
- I Kiss Your Hand: The young man in the third scene keeps kissing the hand of the married woman.
- Left the Background Music On: The transition to the second scene reveals an orchestra playing the music we are hearing.
- Medium Awareness: The character of the "Game Master", played by Anton Walbrook, an addition for the movie. The Game Master knows he's in a movie and addresses the audience. He even uses a clapperboard to introduce the third segment of the movie, "The Chambermaid and the Young Man."
- No Fourth Wall: Not for the Game Master, although it exists for the other characters. When he changes costume for the opening scene with the streetwalker he looks at the camera and says "Sorry. This is my first disguise."
- The Oner: Ophuls was famous for this. The opening scene with the Game Master, in which he establishes the setting and walks around the set, runs five minutes without a cut.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Many, as the whole movie is about people getting it on. The scene with the maid and the young man ends with her closing the blinds. When the movie cuts back to them they're clearly putting their clothes back on.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: This exact sequence—he slaps her, she slaps him, they kiss—plays out between the poet and the actress.
- Sleeping Single: The young wife and her husband are sleeping in separate beds. Since this wasn't an Enforced Trope in French cinema, it's probably meant to underscore the lack of passion in the marriage. (In the play, even though the passion of the married couple has flagged, There Is Only One Bed.)
- Think of the Censors!: The love scene between the actress and the count is interrupted by a cut to the Game Master, who takes some scissors and snips a few frames out of the film, saying "Censored!" When the movie cuts back to the actress and the count, it's the next scene.
- Time Skip: Lampshaded by the Game Master, who seems to be omniscient and omnipotent. He meets Marie the maid after the soldier leaves, and tells her she's going to be fired that night for skipping work. Then he assures her she'll get a better job in two months—and then suddenly the time is two months later and she's in her new maid outfit.Game Master: Two months. July's so far off.
Marie: No it's not.
Game Master: You're already there.
- Title Drop: In his opening scene the Game Master says "And me. What part do I play in this story of la ronde?" He goes on to mention "la ronde" several more times.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between the French Maid and the son of the family in the second scene.
- You Look Familiar: In-Universe, when the count recognizes the Game Master, who plays multiple roles in various scenes.Count: I've seen you somewhere before.
Game Master: It's possible, sir. I move around a lot.