Thursday, 25 March 2010

Enchained to Time. Marcel Carné. The Devil's Envoys / Les Visiteurs du soir

[The following is quotation. My commentary is bracketed in red.]

Enchained to Time
Marcel Carné
The Devil's Envoys
Les Visiteurs du soir

Gilles Deleuze

Cinema 2: The Time Image
Cinéma 2: L'image-temps

From Recollection to Dreams: Third Commentary on Bergson
Du souvenir aux rêves (troisième commentaire de Bergson)

The two poles of the flashback: Carné, Mankiewicz
Les deux pôles du flash-back : Carné, Mankiewicz

destiny can be exhibited directly in other ways, and can affirm a pure power of time which overflows all memory, an already-past which exceeds all recollections: we are not just thinking of expressionist figures of blind men or tramps with which Carné's work is strewn, but of the immobilizings and petrifications in Visiteurs du Soir, or the use of mime in Les Enfants du Paradis, and more generally of light, which Carné uses in the French style - luminous grey which passes through every atmospheric nuance and constitutes a great circuit of the sun and moon. [Deleuze Cinema 2, 1989: 46-47]

Car le destin peut se manifester directement par d'autres voies, et affirmer une pure puissance du temps qui déborde toute mémoire, un déjà -passé qui excède tout souvenir : nous ne pensons pas seulement aux figures expressionnistes d'aveugles ou de clochards dont Carné a parsemé son oeuvre, mais aux immobilisations et pétrifications des « Visiteurs du soir », à l'usage du mime dans « Les enfants du paradis », et plus généralement à la lumière, dont Carné se sert suivant le style français, gris lumineux qui passe par toutes les nuances atmosphériques et constitue le grand circuit du soleil et de la lune. [Deleuze Cinéma 2, 1985: 68a.b]

The Inadequacy of the recollection-image
Insuffisance de l'image-souvenir

the flashback [...] gets its justification from elsewhere; Carné's destiny [Deleuze Cinema 2, 1989: 51c]

le flashback [...] reçoit une justification d'ailleurs, le destin de Carné [Deleuze Cinéma 2, 74a]

[The minstrels in this story do the devil's work, and they have supernatural powers. They have come to sing to the baron's court. The male minstrel, Gilles, tempts the baron's daughter Anne into loving him. She will soon marry. The female minstrel tempts both Anne's husband and her father the baron. Below is the remarkable scene where the minstrels stop the dance's duration, and take the woman and her fiancé off for romance in this nether-time.

(Video should play, even though no image shows until then.)

Gilles takes Anne out of time, and she says how she felt they were destined to unite.

In this scene, Gilles gives Anne a necklace to commemorate their love. She says to Gilles that even if she were dreaming, she would not want to awake. She wants to be locked in this blissful state outside of time. They turn and see her fiancé also cheating with the woman-minstrel. Notice how he says that time is immaterial.

The woman minstrel gives the fiancé a ring to memorialize their love. Then Gilles returns Anne to her place in the petrified dance, where began their journey out of time.

The fiancé is returned as well. They notice that each other's attitudes have changed, and that they now wear commemorations of their new timeless loves. I will return to this point at the end.

Freak dwarves were brought to amuse the baron with their hideous faces. As outcasts, they might make us think of characters outside the network of social relations in the film. And in sense, we might think of them as a Greek chorus or as observers within the story who at the same time see it from a privileged external perspective. Here they come to taunt love-stricken Gilles. They tell him to remember that his destiny is to deceive women, and not fall into a state of eternal love.

When Gilles announces his true and undying love for Anne, the devil appears to punish Gilles for breaking his contract. It seems he arranges for Gilles to be caught with Anne in her bedroom. The baron will torture and kill Gilles. To save her true love, Anne makes an agreement with the devil: Gilles will become free, but will forget her, and Ann will try to fall in love with the devil. This frees Gilles, but now he does not recognize Anne, although he is stunned by her beauty and joyful in his memoryless freedom. After Gilles wanders off free, Anne tells the devil she lied, and she will not try to love him. She then asks to be returned to a fountain where she and Gilles shared their love. She meets Gilles there, and they again share tender moments, but as though they just met. They kiss, and afterward Gilles remembers Anne. The devil is frustrated, so he turns them to stone. This only petrifies their love eternally.

Let's begin first with Deleuze's general observation that destiny is the cause for recollection in Carné. When during the dance Anne and her fiancé noticed each other's love-commemorations, the ring and the necklace, they recalled back to their experiences in frozen time. In this state, Anne falls in love, and wants to remain eternally in this petrified romance. Both the female and male minstrels tell their victims that as soon as they saw them, they knew why they traveled so far. For the female minstrel, this is a lie. But for Gilles, it is true. He really does fall in love, and he regrets his bondage to the devil. So for him, he truly was traveling far for Anne and only for Anne. They were destined to be locked timelessly as petrified statues, embraced in eternal love. This love out-of-time was Anne's destiny. Recall now their dance, after returning from their first timeless romances. Here they were given a ring and a necklace to commemorate their new forbidden loves. While dancing, they point-out to each other those memorials. Here we have a recollection, taking them both back to that timeless state. As we saw, this timeless state is more than an interruption for Anne; it is her destiny. So perhaps in this way, destiny is the cause of recollection, as Deleuze says we find in Carné.

Deleuze's writes specifically for this film that destiny is exhibited in the immobilizings and petrifications which affirm time's pure power to exceed recollection. Perhaps in a way, their destiny to unite eternally had the power for Gilles to remember something that was no longer in his memory, as if the memories did not come from his own personal past but from the timeless beyond that is their eternal destiny.]

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time Image. Transl. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. London & New York: 1989.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinéma 2: L'image-temps. Paris: Les éditions de minuit, 1985.

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