After Eric Rohmer completed his "Six Moral Tales," and before launching into the "Comedies and Proverbs," he tackled two projects very different from anything else in his career. In the first of these, The Marquise of O, b... more »ased on the novel by Heinrich von Kleist, Rohmer leaves the young intellectuals of Paris for Italy during the Napoleonic wars. During the Russian invasion, the beautiful young marquise (Edith Clever) is saved from certain assault by a handsome and dashing count (Bruno Ganz). She spends the night guarded by her chivalrous savior, who returns months later to rather insistently court her. Only when he leaves does she discover that she is, unaccountably, pregnant. Rohmer's style is both more lush (shot in rich colors by NÚstor Almendros) and less intimate than his previous romantic comedies, directed in painterly compositions at a removed distance. Unlike the self-obsessed young adults of his modern films, the count and the marquise act out of moral duty and social responsibility, and their actions reverberate through family and community. Yet this is still a Rohmer film, filled with carefully tooled dialogue (spoken in German) and informed by irony. The story of innocence and corruption, and the shades that lie within even the best of men, ends on a note of delicate forgiveness and understanding. Rohmer followed this with an even more unexpected stylistic experiment, the beautiful and beguiling Perceval. --Sean Axmaker« less
"I better warn you that not everyone agrees with me on this film. Some people find it too understated and slow. However, it is more accurate to say that it is a fairy tale delivered in a very painterly manner. Since I am an artist, this enhances the film for me rather than acting as a negative. The visual style reminds me most strongly of a Vermeer painting. If you can get into the dry nature of it, the film is LOL funny in many parts. This was my first Bruno Ganz, the male lead, film and I thought he was wonderful. Most of writer-director Eric Rohmer's films remind us of Woody Allen's work, if he were French, with that accompanying cynical eye on relationships. This film is not like that except for the basic set up. Set back a few centuries, the young noblewoman believes that Ganz has saved her from rape one night during a war. Yet several months later she finds she is pregnant despite her savior's noble act that night. This film is also a happy-ever-after film, unlike most of Rohmer's other work. I can't say that this film really resembles Cocteau's "Beauty and The Beast" but if you enjoyed that fairy tale, you may well also enjoy this fairy tale. I love both of them although they are told and filmed quite differently."
True to the Kleist--in spirit and text
PeerGynt | S. Utah | 06/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kleist's writing interests me because of the frailties and strengths of his characters. Is it possible to save a woman from rape, rape her yourself, seek to hide what you've done and to make ammends, and in the end still be something like a decent person? Maybe. Do good people do bad things? Yes. Is not a certain willingness to forgive weakness necessary between humans? Certainly.
Rohmer captures the feeling Kleist's story beautifully. He is careful to show the strengths of the women, they aren't passive and dominated within a patriarchal society--important in a film wherein the leading man commits rape, and the leading woman eventually forgives him."
Charles S. Tashiro | Agoura Hills, CA USA | 12/04/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If it is possible to be ostentatiously chaste, Eric Rohmer's THE MARQUISE OF O... is an example of it. Sometimes witty, always stunningly beautiful, the film is so self-consciously muted in style, so obviously different from the blare of standard Hollywood, it can't help calling attention to itself. It is thus not quite as modest as the style would suggest. Even understatement, pursued doggedly enough, can become a form of showing off. Besides, there is plenty to testify to Rohmer's ambitions. Based on Heinrich Kleist's novella of the same name, MARQUISE is a perfect example of "literary cinema," with all the baggage such a label implies. None of Rohmer's films are meant for a mass audience. They announce their refinement with their limited situations, articulate characters and toney references. Here, after Kleist's novella, the primary proofs of cultural worth are painterly: set in the Napoleonic era, the film's visual style is obviously modeled after Neo-classical and early Romantic painters. With a heavy reliance on the skills of master cinematographer Nestor Almendros, Rohmer uses Kleist to create a cozy, Biedermeier world of diaphanous Empire gowns, heavy velvet draperies and formalized domestic routine.In itself, there is nothing wrong with this. Certainly Rohmer's work is preferable to, and much more interesting than, such similarly respectable literary adaptations as the bloated, otiose and cinematically dreary Merchant/Ivory productions. No matter how precious or theatrical the film may get, you never doubt that you're in the presence of a real filmmaker. Rohmer has *chosen* to reduce the experience to essentials, he's refined and polished the experience to a high gloss, so there's nary a gesture, inflection, camera movement or lighting set up that hasn't been thought out in terms of the overall design.Which no doubt structures how most people reaction to it. If you can respond to such highly mediated and controlled experiences, you will probably enjoy the film, not just for the delicious ironies of Kleist's story, but for the elegant skill with which it has been mounted. If you find such refinement insufferably mannered, pretentious and more than a bit self-preening, you'd best stay away. For myself, this is only one of three Rohmer films that I have seen. I found the other two almost unbearably arch. With the help of Kleist and Almendros, however, Rohmer makes MARQUISE into a delightful, visually exquisite comedy of manners."
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 06/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Eric Rohmer's 1976 take on Heinrich Von Kleist's story "The Marquise of O" is a movie right up my alley. While I'm not necessarily a fanatic about foreign films, I do love watching period piece pictures. Rohmer's picture may well be the best period film I have ever seen, and that includes Kubrick's masterful "Barry Lyndon." What surprised me even more after watching this film was finding out it is one of the few period pieces Rohmer has made in his long career. I read up on the man in the process, discovering that most of his other films are considerably different from this one. Rohmer is actually French, born Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer in Lorraine, France in 1920. After a short career as a novelist and film critic, he moved into the world of filmmaking in 1955. Critics associate Rohmer with the French New Wave school of filmmaking, placing him squarely alongside more recognizable names like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. The director ran into a few snags in his early career, toiling in obscurity for quite awhile as he continued to write about film until his first hit in 1969, "Ma nuit chez Maud." Rohmer's pictures deal with "arty" themes, moral quandaries such as infidelity and clashing value systems. Some of his French stuff sounds quite above my head, so I'm glad I saw this German language piece based on a story I am at least familiar with."The Marquise of O," set during the Napoleonic turmoils of nineteenth century Europe, focuses on the misfortunes of lovely young lady known as the Marquise (Edith Clever). Her father is a colonel who must surrender the town he is defending to the Russians. One of these Russian soldiers, a noble officer referred to as the Count (Bruno Ganz), saves the Marquise from a band of rapacious Slavic soldiers. Later, when he takes the barely conscious woman to her family's house, he revisits her in the middle of the night in a scene with deeply suspicious overtones. Fast forward a bit, when the Count comes to visit the Marquise and her parents. He proposes a marriage between himself and the young lady, much to the shock of everyone involved. The Marquise tries to put him off for a bit, but the Count is undeterred. He presses for a commitment, which apparently is a big no-no in the early nineteenth century as evidenced by the increasing sourness of the father and mother, but eventually settles in to wait. A complication arises when the Count learns he must head back to Russia to fill a post, an assignment he incredibly considers disobeying in order to stay near the Marquise. Her parents are appalled-what sort of man would spurn a direct order from the leader of his country? It soon becomes obvious why the Count tried to put off his trip.The Marquise begins to feel unwell. As time progresses, she fears she may be pregnant, something the implications of which will be disastrous for her and her family. She's not married and doesn't have any overt suitors other than the Count, so aside from a miraculous virgin birth, someone's been up to no good. When her parents find out about what happened, the unfolding hysterics are quite something to watch. Nineteenth century Europe is a place and time when an unwed mother might as well commit suicide rather than birth a child. The pregnancy places the family's honor in grave jeopardy, which the Colonel will not allow. He disowns his child, banishing her from the house to a distant country estate. The Marquise's mother is torn, at first expressing outrage at her daughter's state and then softening later. A risky plan to reconcile the family involves placing an advertisement in the local newspaper seeking the father of the child. Even I groaned aloud at such an audacious endeavor. The locals do too, finding great amusement in the fact that a highborn woman doesn't know who fathered her child. And who did? We have a good idea, but must wait for it to play out at the end of the film.I loved this film. The movie is all about how a strict sense of honor, fused with repressive ideas about how a woman should conduct herself, play out in a small family. While we may laugh over how concerned the characters are about the situation, and Rohmer certainly laughs as well, that doesn't make for a less interesting film experience. If "The Marquise of O" were nothing more than a quaint little picture about moral conundrums two hundred years ago, it would not merit attention. What sets the film apart is the sumptuous cinematography and compelling atmosphere. I don't know a whit about painted art, but it is obvious Rohmer set out to create a world resembling a painting. I shouldn't say ONE static painting, as the movie looks like one huge moving painting. The colors, atmosphere, and background are simply amazing to look at. Each frame of the film looks as though Rohmer carefully pulled it off a canvas. It's not as obvious as "Barry Lyndon," where Kubrick had his actors strike poses, but "The Marquise of O" looks like it should be hanging in the Louvre.I suspect Rohmer's movie is the sort of project true thespians pray for everyday of their careers. No one takes a backseat to effects as even the war scenes are small and centered on the characters. What you do get instead are lengthy scenes of dialogue and tons of close-ups. If you dislike talky pictures, you'll need to skip "The Marquise of O." If you love conflict and moral predicaments, acting and meaningful dialogue, Rohmer's film should serve you well."
Somewhat strange, but extremely original...
M. B. Alcat | Los Angeles, California | 09/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Marquise of O" is a film directed by Eric Rohmer (Jean Marie Maurice Schérer), and based on a story written by Heinrich von Kleist a long time ago. That story was somewhat strange, but extremely original. The same can be said about this movie.
The main character is the beautiful marquise of O (Edith Clever), a young French woman that lives with her parents and her two daughters, leading a virtous life after the death of her husband. During the late nineteenth century Franco-Prussian war, the marquise is saved from rape by a handsome Russian count (Bruno Ganz). Overwrought by the incident, the marquise is given a potion to sleep. The following day she wants to thank the count, but is informed that he has left with the Russian troops.
The marquise of O goes on with her life, until two extremely unusual things happen. First, the count returns to her life, wanting to marry her immediately. Secondly, the marquise discovers that she is pregnant, and is immediately banished from her parents' house. But how did that happen, if the marquise swears that she has remained chaste after the death of her husband?
All in all, I can say that this movie is interesting, capable of entertaining but also of making you reflect on temptation, standards of propriety, and what is right and wrong. Moreover, the cinematography is so good that the spectator starts to believe that he is indeed watching something that happened a long time ago. Even though this is far from being my favourite Rohmer film, it is more than good enough to recommend, and that is the reason why I give it 3.5 stars.