Half my life ago, my worst-ever boyfriend took me to the movies. We went to see an old film, something I’d never heard of. I remember not being too focused on whatever it was we were going to see. It had become clear to me that our relationship was a wrong one, particularly in its extreme unhealthiness for me. But I had convinced myself I was in love and that something good could be fashioned out of the misshapen cacophony of us. My mind was always racing, trying to find the right path to chart, the way to get through an evening with him without event. He wanted to see some movie? Okay, we’d go see the movie.
And then the movie began. And then the movie turned out to be Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad. And then I was in the movie and there was nothing else. My bad ex could have expounded on his theory of life, on his feelings for me, on all the reasons he believed we would or wouldn’t end up together … and I wouldn’t have heard a word.
I wasn’t any kind of film buff. All I knew about a movie was whether or not I liked it, and I couldn’t have cared less what critics or my friends had to say. I fell in love with Last Year at Marienbad. Completely. I loved the distortion of time, reality and memory, loved the awkward and perfect way Delphine Seyrig held herself, the way she moved. I loved the somnambulant, disorienting storytelling that led me through the movie.
The movie ended and I went back to my bad relationship. I think we had another month or two before I finally walked away from him. There aren’t many things I can thank him for. He introduced me to the Up film series, maybe to a few other films I still love. I own two of his paintings. I think that’s about it. But Last Year at Marienbad has stayed just as magical and luminous as it was that first night I saw it. And thinking about it today makes me see a glitteringly-bright through line from the narrative structure of that film to the ways I like to tell stories when I write. Funny that I never made that connection before.
I’m thinking about the movie today because the first thing I heard when I turned on the radio this morning was that Resnais has died at the age of 91. And as sad as I was to hear that, I was thrilled to hear that he was still making movies, right up to the end. That pleases and amazes me. Gives me all kinds of hope.
Click on over to Two Writing Teachers to read more of today’s slices!