Monday, 29 March 2010

Miming Times of Destiny. Marcel Carné. Children of Paradise / Les Enfants du Paradis

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

Miming Times of Destiny
Marcel Carné
Children of Paradise
Les Enfants du Paradis

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]

[In this story, a talented mime (Baptiste) falls in love with a woman (Garance), who wants him, but does not love him in the same innocent and passionate way. While waiting for the mime to come to terms with the differences between their forms of love, she sleeps with one of Baptiste's friends and co-actors, Frédérick.

The clips below show a mime-performance that happens in the middle of the movie's story. At this point in the narrative, Garance (played by Arletty) had recently offered to sleep with Baptiste. But he turned her down, because he wants to wait for when she loves him the way he loves her. Frédérick, sleeping at the same house, sees her now alone and runs to her. He then sleeps with her, taking the opportunity that Baptiste turned-down.

These three characters happen to star in the same mime-play. Remarkably, the theatrical story dramatizes the real events transpiring between characters, as they now are, as they once were, and as they soon will be.

The clip below shows Baptiste miming a character that falls in love with the stage-character that Garance is now playing. At this point, it is like a recollection or flashback to the events just preceding the play.

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

Baptiste falls asleep, and is unaware that Frédérick's character comes to take Arletty away. This is just like how Baptiste in his real life is unaware that Frédérick has slept with Garance.

Then, the next act of the story foretells what is to come. It has not yet happened in the real narrative, but it is foreseen here in the mimed story. We see Baptiste discover Frédérick's character romancing Garance's character. This has not yet happened in real life, however. Baptiste's sorrow over the discovery also has not yet happened in real life.

In this next portion, the other woman with the laundry is actually someone in Baptiste's real life who truly does love him and later will marry him, despite Baptiste's obsession with Garance. Then something most remarkable happens in this scene. So far, Baptiste is unaware of how this dramatization in fact is reality and foretells his real future. But then he sees Garance and Frederick offstage, getting close with one another. Here reality and drama break through to one another, while the future, past, and present coincide in a timeless, eternal way. Baptiste is shocked by the discovery. Then the woman who loves him in real life (as well as in the mimed story), becomes frightened by Babtiste's emotional shock, and even yells his real name on stage, furthering the cross-rupture between reality and dramatization.

Deleuze writes that destiny is exhibited in one of time's pure powers: it can be an already-past that overflows all memory and exceeds all recollection. Baptiste never saw Frédérick and Garance together before the play. So Baptiste would have no way to recall Frédérick's and Garance's romance. Yet such a similar romance is the theme of the play that Baptiste leads. And also, this play foretells what is destined to come: Baptiste's profound sorrow. So here Baptiste's destiny is played-out in a way that enables him to 'recall' something he never first had in his memory. He does so implicitly by playing a character who sleeps while Frédérick's character romance's Garance's character. As an actor, he knows the full plot of the story he plays. Then seeing Frédérick and Garance together causes him to see that this part of the plot is in fact a real event in his own life-story. While playing the early scene, he knows that the played story goes this direction. He knows that is the destiny of the story. And then this destined outcome is actually an event in his own past, that he could never really recall, but now can indirectly reconstruct in his imagination by seeing that the played romance is the same as the real romance. So it is destiny expressed as an 'already-past' that overflows all memory and recollection.]

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.


  1. Amazing. Thanks a lot for all thes comments and vids of such a touching film and superb interpratation by Jean-Louis Barrault. I'm astonished at such a way of acting, that scene of the pic you posted is just tearbearing. What a talent!

  2. Thanks! I was deeply impressed as well by those scenes.