On Trying to Remember If It Was Last Year

Last Year at Marienbad (dir. Alain Resnais, 1961)

While the bedroom scene flashes across the screen in rapid succession, X is still at the bar with A. Silent throughout, A lifts her head (interrupted by slices of the bedroom) to X, a hard slyness set into her eyes that is the mute's womanly distrust of character, mistrusting motivation. She peers up at this man as if she is in on what he says to her, two strangers realizing the same memory, or is it one stranger victim to another's manipulations? His tongue is fiction, especially when subtitled, but she is not his god, she is no deity, she cannot read the fourth wall between us: his pleas are like buoyancy that never sinks in, like salt in the ocean she would be tasting from the seat of a restaurant in a city near no coast in another country. She is imported to him; she is outsourced by herself. Or does A deliver mercy to forgive X his words so earnest, so eager to convince and persuade that affection did affect the two, here, right here, a year ago? Does A truly know where she knows X from? Or is she simply tired of putting up with this stranger's manic grandeur, so desperate the illusion is as obviously stated as shadows painted on the rolling lawns. She makes to exit upstairs, to her room, alone - and when she finally disappears off our screen, will we question whether X is still there deluding himself about A, or does X represent nothing and A is but a matching decoy? Whose head are we in when we have all the answers but none of the problems?

A little under two minutes after this sequence begins, the sixteenth shot is a fixed view of X, continued from the fourteenth shot where X is seen closer to the camera than he has been positioned, intimacy as suspense. Yet now, at 00:38:30, we watch A adjust her body, her pose for the viewing, to speak volumes through a weightlessness her physicality is gifted with imbibing: desire, attraction, seductive recall too alluring not to wonder about - a hidden scene to envision privately before the camera changes angles. Her poise can be seen as the same gesture as when A lifts her head to X with no clear intention of having been a voluntary action, prefacing a realization, or cutting short the one-way conversation she is subjected to as subject. She may be attempting to remove herself from the situation by removing herself from the setting, to escape from X. Or she may feel inclined to become more active in solving the dilemma that did not exist before he said it did. Again A's moment is disrupted by scenes of a bedroom. The bedroom is the villain lurking out of frame in every scene, it is the ghost that stalks our tragic heroine and her delusional lover; or the woman ashamed and her apologetic besmircher; or two people arrived to seek asylum from their lives in a resort so grand they do not realize it is asylum.