A strangely excellent movie – beautifully shot and performed. It’s very straightforward, plot-wise. The central mystery is set up in the first scene (taking place at Cafe Exposition, populated by extras filling each other in on backstory), and the movie spends the rest of its runtime dropping hints as to the solution to the central mystery, until finally even people like me, who don’t try to guess the endings to movies, know very well what’s going to happen. The NY Times considered it obvious enough to reveal the answer outright in their original review. But somehow that didn’t keep me from loving the movie, more than Perceval to be sure. One complaint: the title made Katy think of the Marquis de Sade, and made me think of The Story of O – so the movie should have been far sexier than it was.
The story was written in the early 1800’s and set in Germany, so of course Rohmer makes a German film that looks like it is happening in the early 1800’s, with a Barry Lyndon level of attention to light and costume. The Marquise (Edith Clever of a couple Hans-Jurgen Syberberg movies) is rescued from Russian marauders by their commander Bruno Ganz (not long before starring in Herzog’s Nosferatu). She is given sleeping pills after her ordeal, and the family is ever grateful to Ganz. Thing is, he’s now strangely, hurriedly insistent on marrying the Marquise, and she soon realizes she is pregnant.
Bruno makes an awesome entrance:
It becomes increasingly obvious to the viewer that Ganz knocked her up while she slept from the pills and is trying to run damage control, but this never occurs to the Marquise or her family until he admits it in the final scene. Instead, her mother tries to pin it on faithful servant Leopardo, while her father shuts his ears and bans her from setting foot in the house again.
Rohmer himself stands distractingly against the wall:
A super talky movie, of course, but possibly my favorite so far of Rohmer’s. Intertitles and fade outs at the end of scenes provide what little stylization is allowed into the movie. It’s funny to me that in the last line of the movie the marquise calls Bruno an angel – he and the actor playing her brother (Otto Sander) would later co-star as angels in Wings of Desire and Faraway So Close.