Monday, May 9, 2016 @ 6:15 PM
Visual Arts Presentation Lab, SME 149
Alain Resnais, Muriel, or The Time of Return, 1963, 115 minutes

This week’s film, Muriel, or The Time of Return (1963), Alain Resnais’s third feature, establishes Delphine Seyrig as a major actress. The Venice Film Festival gave her an acting prize, its Volpi Cup, in 1963. Muriel’s script written by Jean Cayrol, who also wrote Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog (1955), exposes how the traumatic experiences of war effects personal lives according to their generation. After twenty years, parents live in the aftermath of World War II, which had destroyed their cities and their futures. 

Muriel is the first French film dealing with the Algerian war and the effect of war on returned soldiers. The son who served in Algeria faces the reckoning of being complicit in torture in this colonial war. This story about memory, longing, and guilt, is told by way of a fragmented narrative structure that captures history’s influence on the present. Hélène Aughain, a widow selling antiques in Boulogne-sur-Mer on France’s north coast, is trying to reactivate an unsuccessful love affair from her youth and cannot stop her gambling addiction. Her stepson Bernard who returned six months ago from Algeria is haunted by the torture and killing of a young woman named Muriel.

The film shows the multiple lies and compulsions of a society which has lost its compass.