× Current About Archive Submit Editorial Board Salisbury University

Shadows Real and Artificial: Two Film Masterpieces of 1961



One is French/Italian, the other American.  One is based on a script on which the director collaborated; the other is adapted from a novel.  One is widely regarded as among the greatest films of all time, and, perhaps more widely, as a pretentious, stupefying fraud.  The other has received some high praise, and some dismissive pans.  Both are filmed in black and white.  Both are in their quite divergent ways concerned with the capture and confinement of a woman in a constricted space.  Rape is implicit in one and explicit in the other.  Both are available on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.

One is L’Année dernière à Marienbad, directed by Alain Resnais from a shooting script by Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet, but credited to the latter.  The other is Something Wild, directed by Jack Garfein from a screenplay by himself and Alex Karmel, the author of Mary Ann (Viking, 1958), the novel on which the film is based.

I probably saw each film for the first time early in 1962, at the University Theater in Charlottesville, where I was a second-year student. Something Wild was released in December of 1961, and Marienbad had its U. S. release in March of 1962.  The theater was off the grounds of the University, but close enough to them that it made sense for it to run films of artistic ambition or pretension more often than other theaters in the area.  It was most of a lifetime before I began to think of the films together, as partners, however unwitting, in the intricate dance around a theme they share, which is that men can find ways to perceive consent where women experience rape.

I believe I went alone to see Marienbad, about or to which I had heard a few stray remarks or allusions (“Voilà sa cravate immense, luxueux, baroque, lugubre.”). It should surprise no one that I did not understand it, yet I came away from it feeling grateful for the richness of its setting, and for the pleasure to be taken in the repetitive disposition of its sequences, which struck me as suggestive of a slow-moving vortex, as if that were possible.  I doubt that I then knew T. S. Eliot’s remark that one may admire a poem before one understands it very well, but at some level I had had the experience.

Since then, I have encountered much less favorable responses to the film, both public—Pauline Kael’s dismissal of La Notte, Marienbad, and La Dolce Vita continues be used on both sides of the arguments about the value of her work—and private.  Some time in the 1990s, for instance, George Garrett and Carolyn Kizer were in Washington, and I invited them to come up to American University, where I was teaching, and to accompany me to a screening of Marienbad.  They detested it, and, by their nearly silent but perceptible responses during the screening, I could see why.  The film conceals its intentions pretty thoroughly, and the repetition, if one doesn’t feel it as one feels the repetition of verse refrains, dancing, singing, or chanting, can feel monotonous. The scarcity of ordinary narrative ingredients also aroused their impatience, and I could sympathize with that as well, even though I had found something refreshing and liberating in the vagueness and indeterminacy of what might be called the action.  Even then, though this was my third or fourth viewing of the film, it still held me at some distance, with the coldly abstract attractiveness of a kaleidoscope.

My first experience of Something Wild was in the company of Richard H. W. Dillard, who was near the end of his pursuit of the doctorate at the University, and who contributed greatly to my growing up.1  We found the film engaging and powerful, though we both left the theater wondering how convincingly it had proceeded from its beginning to its ending, which I found oddly exhilarating.  Richard noted that the title, which does not directly echo anything in the film, was nevertheless unusually apt.  I did not see the film again until 2017, though parts of it floated into my recollections from time to time, and I maintained without nurturing it an interest in seeing it.  When I finally did, I found the ending about as far from exhilarating as endings get.

When I began to think of these two films as a pair, I had seen each of them enough times to have gotten past the ways in which they are strikingly different. Marienbad, one may say without joking, is profoundly superficial; its beautiful surface glows, and hints at depths.  Something Wild does not show off in this way, though its cinematography is expert and expressive.  Yet both of them portray men being unreasonable in their pursuits of resistant but finally compliant women, and end with long shadows of doubt that much joy lies ahead for either couple.  Both appear to end in the conviction that this is indeed the end, that wishful or regretful imaginings of the future have no force or even interest.



Marienbad is an unusual collaboration between writer and filmmaker. Alain Robbe-Grillet, major figure in the development of the nouveau roman, and Alain Resnais, director of Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog)(1956) and of the feature-length Hiroshima mon amour (1959), met to discuss the possibility of working on something together.  According to Robbe-Grillet, who details aspects of this meeting and its aftermath in his introduction to the published script, the two men soon reached an agreement about what was to be done.  Robbe-Grillet began work on the script, and Resnais visited him from time to time to look at it. Resnais made suggestions, and Robbe-Grillet kept writing, here accepting and there rejecting Resnais’s suggestions, until the script was, in the view of both, completed. They parted, and Resnais went to work on the film. After it was completed, and began to be screened on specially arranged occasions (distributors at first declined to take it on [Vincendeau]), Robbe-Grillet published the script, thus making possible a consideration of Marienbad both as a film and as a literary work.

The setting is a large eighteenth-century European chateau-hotel, with extensive but strict and minimalist formal gardens and opulent interiors: long corridors with salons and private rooms on either side, a small theater, elaborate staircases, a large round gathering room whose walls are mirrors, all decorated with baroque complexity and filmed, in four separate locations including the studio, with sumptuous patience and clarity.  The many mirrors get a lot of use; there are about forty shots in which characters or actions appear in a mirror, or both head-on and in a mirror to one side.

Somewhat gradually, it becomes evident that many of the hotel’s inhabitants are portrayed as if they were just a step or two from being pure mannequins. They are caught in brief conversations, or in total stillness, as the camera approaches and then passes them by.  During these tableaux, eyes do not blink.  Soon three characters emerge who get more screen time.  One (played by Delphine Seyrig) is a striking woman with a short sweeping brunette hair style evocative of the twenties; another (Giorgio Albertazzi) is a conventionally handsome man who persists in telling the woman that they were lovers a year previously, and that she promised to meet him again after a year’s time and go away with him. The third character (Sacha Pitoëff) is a tall, slim man with an unusually narrow face and faintly menacing aspect, who may be the woman’s husband.  There are five sequences in the film where he plays a game of nim2, in which matchsticks or playing cards or dominoes are laid out in four rows of seven, five, three, and one.  Two players take turns removing as many items as they wish, but from only one row at a turn, until the losing player is left with the last item.  The Pitoëff character always wins: “I can lose, but I always win.” It is a trivial thing made large by its placements in the film, which sharpen the impression of rivalry between him and the handsome stranger. In the script, these three people are called, respectively, A, X, and M, though they are not identified in the film.3  One writer has noted that in many algebraic contexts, X is a variable and A and M are constants. (Tomasulo, p. 9)  Does M stand for either mari (husband) or mort (death)?  (Higgins, New Novel, 87-88) Is there any harm in being reminded of Fritz Lang’s M?

As the film begins, the camera moves along wide corridors, past small statues and framed drawings and paintings of the grounds, and detailed shots of elaborate ceilings and cornices.  These are so sharp, and so detailed and various in their shading, that it is almost possible to forget that they are black and white. Throughout these tracking shots, a voice-over monologue comes and goes, now quite audible, now reduced to a distant mutter, whose burden is that “I” returns once more to these vast, overdecorated corridors and salons, where carpets are so thick and heavy that no sound reaches the ear, and so on.  Five and a half minutes into the film, around a corner there appears for two seconds the first shot of a person: a man in evening dress, too far away to be recognized later, walking toward the camera.  Thereafter, occasional living attendants stand with their backs to the walls, awaiting orders that may or may not come.

In my latest round of encounters with Marienbad, during the winter of 2017-2018, I discovered that one of these motionless figures, which appears in profile at the right of the screen against a background that almost absorbs it, is a representation of Alfred Hitchcock (see Figure 1). Two men walk past it without noticing it, but, incredibly, the effigy appears beside the subtitle, “You saw it yourself?”  Jean Léon, assistant director, says that this apparition, which occurs at 00:11:54, is made of wood, and appears again in Resnais’s Muriel (1963) (Thomas, 1989, 145).  A still of this moment in Marienbad is on page 29 of Richard Howard’s translation of Robbe-Grillet’s script; the photograph does not appear in the French version.  In Muriel, the wooden Hitchcock wears a chef’s uniform, and appears between 1:16:00 and 1:17:30. Resnais himself briefly discusses this hommage in his audio interview in the “Supplements” to the DVD (Resnais 2009).

Shadows Real and Artificial: Two Film Masterpieces of 1961, Henry Taylor, Literature Film Quarterly
Figure 1: Hitchcock likeness in the shadows to the right

Such a reference is also a playful gesture, not out of keeping with Resnais’s apparent enjoyment of the occasional swift aside.  Just a few minutes earlier, there is a sequence in which people watch part of a play in the hotel’s small theater.  Outside its doors there is a poster advertising the piece, entitled Rosmer and styled a “drame en trois actes” by “Niala Sianser”—Alain and Resnais spelled backward.  To find that it was sometimes fun to work on this film is a liberating revelation, somewhat relieving the viewer of the obligation to observe it with humorless solemnity.

The title of the play, and the other external details that may be gleaned from the poster, are not specified in Robbe-Grillet’s script. The poster is said only to be framed like the other drawings on the walls, bearing a title both foreign and meaningless.  A photograph of the poster does appear, however, in a clip from the film on page 23 of the Grove Press edition of the script.  It appears again about five minutes from the end of the film.  The title appears to many commentators to refer to Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, though Resnais, who obviously provided it, denied that, according to Geoffrey Wagner:

Unfortunately all too much meaning has been seen in this title, Rosmer, for Ibsen’s drama does suggest some strange parallels. . . .  Resnais told me that, faced with a very strict shooting schedule, he had suddenly to think of a title for the play (without Robbe-Grillet on hand) since the poster had to be printed overnight; he wanted something as unspecific as possible and simply picked on the name of a childhood friend, Rosmer (Wagner 283, note).

It seems likely that neither Robbe-Grillet nor Resnais would agree that the coincidence is unfortunate; it plays directly to the idea that what is visible is what is there.  In any case, most of the few words spoken by the actor and the actress on the little stage are continuations of X’s voice-over monologue. When the voice changes from X’s to those of the actors in the play, it becomes noticeable that, though X’s French is excellent, it is lightly accented, compared with the actors’ perfect diction. In one of the Criterion Supplements, Jean Léon mentions that he was assigned the task of finding an actor to play X, and that Resnais thought it important that he should have a foreign accent.4  The shift from X’s voice to those of the actors in Rosmer is as if the monologue has a certain  autonomy, beyond a single speaker, and seeks the speaker it wants. The device is one of many that contribute to the viewer’s disorientation.  Granted, X’s accent is noticeable only to viewers who have paid attention to a fair amount of spoken French.

The play is early in the film, well before the establishment of the central question between X and A, but if it is borne in mind, it can be seen as a foreshadowing of the film’s conclusion.  After a final harangue from the male actor, the woman replies, “Voilà.  Maintenant . . . je suis à vous.” (“There.  Now . . . I am yours.”) The curtain comes down.

As the play ends and the audience begins to stand and move about, a blond woman in a dark dress and an elaborate pearl necklace stands, first beside a man with a mustache, then alone.  Soon she is just visible at the back of the little theater, walking to the right toward the lobby area. There, she seems to be looking for something or someone.  She turns and looks behind her, then again before her, and the room seems to change as she does this, because as she turns, jump cuts alter her position by several feet. Moments like this are described and explained in the Supplement; Volker Schlöndorff, Second Assistant Director, speaks as follows, and the scene is played as he speaks of “her shoulder,” showing what he does not describe:

It happened a lot of times that Alain Resnais would use different locations and then assemble them as if they were in one and unique place.  And he would literally start in one location and continue the shot over her shoulder but in an entirely different location.  He loved to create an imaginary room.  And if we are disorientated in this imaginary room, so much the better, because we are also disorientated in the time. So we don’t really have continuity—neither geographically nor temporal—a nightmare for a continuity girl.

The only other extraneous text in the film is about two thirds of the way through, when A is sitting alone with a book. When she opens it, the right-hand page is covered by a photograph of herself which X has given her as ostensible proof that they have met before. The facing left-hand page contains the fifth section of Rilke’s “Aus einer Sturmnacht (From a stormy night.)”  In an e-mail to me on March 1, 2018, Schlöndorff wrote that he was the only person involved with the project who knew any German, and that the choice of text was random. His contribution to the Criterion supplements to Marienbad is especially valuable for its glimpses of the spontaneity that came into the film’s production, despite the tightly controlled feeling of the script.

The fullness and clarity of architectural shots, the absence of implied or explicit backgrounds of the three most prominent figures, the use of repetition along with eye-blink alterations in repeated shots, the construction of balustrades and statues that can be used in different locations, the music of a chamber concert being drowned out by the soundtrack music, all conspire to raise questions in the mind of a viewer determined to hang on to at least some narrative expectations.  It is difficult to do so when A’s costume changes from one quick shot to another, or when her room is differently furnished every time it appears, or when a distant shot of a garden shows the people in it casting shadows while the plants and statuary do not. (Famously, the human shadows were painted on the ground; in Figure 2, the third pair back from the foreground wear full skirts, but have slim shadows.)

Shadows Real and Artificial: Two Film Masterpieces of 1961, Henry Taylor, Literature Film Quarterly
Figure 2: Artificial shadows of people in the otherwise shadowless garden

Furthermore, as Schlöndorff points out in the course of his remarks, even the principal actors were strictly guided in their vocal and physical performances, their rôles being created from the outside, lacking inner backstories or motivations.

The activities of all the residents are sophisticated and slow-moving. Many sequences involve games at tables—cards, checkers, dominoes, etc.  The one pursuit more nearly sporting is a pistol-shooting contest, in which a row of five men, aligned so as to suggest the presence of others out of the view, face the camera with unseen targets behind them. One at a time, they turn quickly and fire their pistols. Gradually the targets are revealed, outlined human figures fastened to the spirally carved columns at the end of the room. In a film this precisely executed, one cannot but notice the extraordinary danger of ricochet in this setting.

Later in the film, M approaches A’s room with a pistol in one hand, as if he were just returning from a session in the shooting gallery. The sequence proceeds to show him entering the room, aiming to the left of the screen and slightly downward, and firing. The next shot is of A, lying on her back on the floor, her lower legs still on the bed, as if she had been shot, although there is no evidence of a wound, her eyes are open, and she has one finger against her lips (see Figure 3).  This is apparently intended to be no more than an imagined possibility, since little is made of it, beyond X’s line in the next scene that A should be alive, and A continues to appear.

Shadows Real and Artificial: Two Film Masterpieces of 1961, Henry Taylor, Literature Film Quarterly
Figure 3: A immediately after having been “shot.”

Jean-Louis Leutrat, as translated by Paul Hammond, quotes Robbe-Grillet in his small book about the film:

The questions you were most likely to ask yourself were: did this man and this woman really meet and fall in love last year in Marienbad?  Does the young woman remember and merely pretend not to recognise the handsome stranger?  Or has she indeed forgotten everything that has passed between them? Etcetera. Let’s get one thing straight: these questions have no meaning (Leutrat 28).

I come from the old school that holds suspect anything an author says about his or her work.  Here is Robbe-Grillet again, in an interview with both him and Resnais, conducted by Claude Ollier and cited by Jacques Brunius:


There may have been several stories in the past which the hero confuses and tangles up. There may never have been anything but a desire which takes shape little by little under the influence of words, by persuasion and suggestion. But this does not exclude the possibility, after all, that there was indeed a meeting, last year at Marienbad  (Brunius 126).


In any case, with the Rosmer sequences, Resnais may have intentionally subverted what he saw as Robbe-Grillet’s male oppressiveness.  Such a reading requires that the play have some basis in Rosmersholm.  A much less subtle instance is Resnais’s handling of what Robbe-Grillet calls the “rape scene.”   Near the end of the film, at about 1:20:00, X begins a slow ascent of a stairway which leads to the corridor toward A’s room. He takes his time, but appears determined.  He walks down the corridor. When A is visible, she is on the bed, wearing a long white gown with feathery sleeves and collar.  She shrinks melodramatically back against the headboard, her arms extended in openness and fear.  The scene closes in a shrinking frame cut.  Suddenly and vehemently, X says this, as it appears in the translated script:


No, no, no! (violently:) That’s wrong. . . . (calmer:) It wasn’t by force. . . .  Remember . . . For days and days, every night . . . All the rooms look alike . . . But that room, for me, didn’t look like any other. . . . There were no more doors, no more corridors, no more hotel, no more garden. . . . There wasn’t even a garden any more (Robbe-Grillet/Howard 147).


Following the cut, the next shot returns, through the speech above, to the corridor, now somewhat washed out as by overexposure.  The camera moves down the hall, takes a left, and enters A’s room, where she stands in the same gown, opening her arms and smiling, her head thrown back ecstatically, in a quick series of short approach shots that move ever closer.

The scene as written, following the withdrawal to the headboard, is much more explicit:

Rather swift and brutal rape scene.  A is tipped back, X is holding her wrists (in one hand) below her waist and a little to one side, her upper body thus not lying flat. A struggles, but without any result. She opens her mouth as if to scream; but X, leaning over her, immediately gags her with a piece of fine lingerie he was holding in his other hand. X’s gestures are precise and rather slow, A’s chaotic; she turns her head once or twice to the right and left, then stares again, her eyes wide, at X who is leaning a little farther over her. . . . The victim’s hair is loose and her clothes in disarray (Robbe-Grillet/Howard 146).

Resnais addresses this departure from Robbe-Grillet’s intention in an audio interview conducted in 2008 by Francois Thomas, and included in the Criterion supplements. As the subtitles have it, he says, “It’s one of the changes I asked Robbe-Grillet to make to the screenplay. I asked his permission to not shoot anything like a rape scene. . . . I tried to express the emotion of love, precisely the opposite of the idea of a rape scene” (Resnais, 2009).  This disclaimer, I believe, does not mitigate the obsessiveness of X’s pursuit of A.  I find no trace of affection in it.

Either way, however, X’s pursuit is relentless, based partly on a belief, sincere or pretended, that he has rights that were conferred during the previous encounter, which A persists in denying, or not recalling, or involuntarily repressing as the result of trauma.  Gradually her resistance breaks down, and at last she consents to leave the hotel with X.  If the film has topics other than itself, one is the question whether X and A have met before, and what happened then, which can probably not be answered with any finality.  So if the film is “concerned” with this question, it is so with Olympian impartiality.  As to “capture” and “confinement” in a “constricted space,” X and A leave the hotel together at the end, while M stands on a stairway contemplating the aloneness he has already told A he will soon face, no matter what she says.  The hotel is vast, but so removed from anything that could be confused with such a concept as “the everyday world” that its constriction is palpable enough.  Just before her capitulation, for example, A has a moment of disorientation or involuntary recall in the bar, and screams.  M helps her to a glass of water, from which she drinks a little with her back to the camera.  This is the only instance in the entire film of anyone drinking; there is never even a hint of anyone eating. Nevertheless, that X and A do not remain in this place seems not to suggest that they are bound for any wide open spaces.  When the screen goes dark, they cease to exist.



Jack Garfein and Alex Karmel have left no published record of their work together, which seems to have been an ordinary author-filmmaker collaboration following Garfein’s discovery of the book, which aroused in him a conviction that he had to make a film of it.  Upon the film’s release late in 1961, it received very little favorable notice, and soon became difficult to see. As Kate Rennebohm puts it in her useful analysis of Garfein’s two films, “. . . even today, [Something Wild’s] serious candidacy for masterwork status is inextricable from its continued ability to invite scorn and dismissal” (Rennebohm 16. The same can be said of Marienbad.)  Over many years it had a few television appearances. Aaron Copland had composed the score, and when in 1980 he turned eighty, the city of New York organized a celebration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Copland requested that Something Wild be screened as part of the proceedings. According to Sheila O’Malley, who champions the film on the Criterion Collection insert, and on her blog The Sheila Variations, “The screening went over as well then as it had in 1961. People were bored, uncomfortable, turned off. After the screening, Copland said to the disappointed Garfein, ‘As far as this film is concerned, Jack . . . just live long enough’” (O’Malley, “Last Chances”).

In contrast to Marienbad, Something Wild has a story line that is easily summarized, and that includes direct representation of a rape. Mary Ann Robinson (Carroll Baker), a college student in New York, takes the subway toward home one evening, walks an accustomed path through a park, and is snatched into the bushes and raped by an unidentified assailant.  She makes her stricken way home, where she rests a while, then takes a bath, scrubbing herself hard with household cleansing soap, then cuts her clothes into scraps that she can flush down the toilet. The next morning she starts for school as usual, but is so overcome by the crush of subway passengers, and her post-traumatic inability to stand being even innocently touched, that she gets out onto the subway platform and faints.  When she regains consciousness, the policeman standing over her offers to take her home, where she goes to bed for a few days, to the selfish distress of her mother (Mildred Dunnock).  When she feels like getting up and out, she starts off for school again, where she attends a class or two before leaving, then sits on a park bench briefly, and leaves her books on it when she gets up and starts walking through the city.  This walk is a cinematographer’s loving encounter with everyday New York, with a hint of threat posed by some of his more expressive shots. At last she finds a cheap rooming house and takes a room in it. Meanwhile her mother is having conferences with detectives.  Mary Ann finds a job in a dime store, where her remoteness persuades her co-workers that she is a snob, and they torment her accordingly.  She leaves the store and walks some more, ending up on the Manhattan Bridge.  Her distress and breathlessness suggest either continued illness or a wish to jump from the bridge, but everything else—the music, the absence of threat in the cinematography—works against the latter conclusion. A passing garage mechanic, Mike (Ralph Meeker), snatches her back from the railing, has a brief conversation with her during which she says she didn’t mean to jump, then takes her back to his basement flat for a rest.  When she wakes up, Mike prepares a small supper for her, and waits upon her with a brilliant combination of unnerving firmness and comic punctiliousness.  He goes out for a few hours, and is knee-walking drunk when he returns.  He makes clumsy, drunken lunges at Mary Ann, and she kicks him in the eye, so hard that later the eye must be removed.  When he sobers up the next day, he concludes that he was in a bar fight before he came home.  Mike imprisons Mary Ann for some two months, keeping the door locked when he goes to work and when he is there.  He likes the way the place looks with her in it, he says, and at one point tells her that he wants her to be his wife.  She tries to say something about why she could never do that, but remains unclear.  After a couple of months Mike goes to work and leaves the door unlocked.  Mary Ann leaves the flat, walks around for several hours, and returns to the flat, to find Mike crouched on a low seat in a corner in something like grief. He asks her why she is there, and she says, “I came for you.” They embrace.  Time measured probably in weeks goes by, and around Christmastime, Mary Ann’s mother receives a letter from Mary Ann, telling her where she lives, and eventually her mother arrives, relieved that her daughter is alive, and distraught and baffled by the choice she has made: “This man is my husband.  This is my life now.  I’m going to have a baby.”  The film ends with Mrs. Gates asking “What has happened?” and Mary Ann’s reply, “What’s happened has happened, Mother.”

As in all instances of adaptation, Karmel’s novel includes details that are changed in the film, or omitted from it.  In the novel Mary Ann is said to be “small and dark,” quite unlike Carroll Baker.  The fact that Mary Ann’s parents are mother and stepfather is stated directly in the novel, but in the film, it is conveyed merely by Mary Ann’s last name being Robinson and her mother’s being Gates. Mike is described as toadlike, entirely repellent, until near the end he undergoes a transformation, at least as Mary Ann sees it.  Meeker’s splendid characterization is not that of a matinee idol, but he is not the grotesque person Karmel originally describes.  More trivially, perhaps, but not without weight, in the novel Mary Ann witnesses a murder and a suicide on the subway platform, and during her dime-store period she passes a tramp on an entrance stair for several days in succession, and comes to realize that he is dead.  The next day he has been gathered up.  This narrative element is hinted at in the film, when Mary Ann is briefly frightened by the stillness of an apparently homeless man in a rain-soaked alley. These close encounters with violence, neglect, and death make brief but strong contributions to the character’s emotional state; however, their virtual absence from the film does not render Mary Ann’s behavior incomprehensible. Finally, the film leaves unanswered the question whether Mary Ann’s pregnancy is a result of the rape. The novel states that Mary Ann has her period some days after the rape, and so is not pregnant by it (Karmel 17).  Like X’s denial of force in Marienbad, this slight diminution of Mary Ann’s recollections of her rape emphasizes the effort she expends in repressing it.

Jack Garfein was born in 1930 in what was then Czechoslovakia. He was imprisoned in several concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, but survived to come to the United States as a teenager.  As a young adult he developed as an actor, and by the time he was about twenty-six he had joined the Actors’ Studio and married Carroll Baker, one of its other members.  (At about this time, coincidentally, Delphine Seyrig was accepted into the Actors’ Studio.)  Garfein’s first feature film was an adaptation of Calder Willingham’s End as a Man entitled The Strange One (1957), which introduced Ben Gazzara and George Peppard.  Garfein continued to deepen his relationship with the Actors Studio. As he came closer to putting Something Wild together, he called upon Eugen Schüfftan (1893-1977), a German who had established himself as a cinematographer and visual effects expert during the heyday of German Expressionism.  Schüfftan (credited in Something Wild as Shuftan) had fled Germany as the Nazis came to power, and had come to the United States in 1940, though he was temporarily back in Europe when Garfein sent him the script for Something Wild.  In an interview a year after the film’s release, Garfein recalled that Schüfftan’s response was “The script is so modern, I’ll do it”  (Johnson, 41). The cinematography of Something Wild is powerfully expressive, especially as it uses architectural elements. Stark half-illuminated stairways (see Figure 4), a subway station, bridge girders, the everyday environs of New York City, and, for most of the second half of the film, the tiny apartment where Mike keeps Mary Ann as an imprisoned guest, enter forcefully into the jagged life of the film.

Shadows Real and Artificial: Two Film Masterpieces of 1961, Henry Taylor, Literature Film Quarterly
Figure 4: Mary Ann ascending the stairs to her room after the rape

The film opens with a striking title sequence prepared by the renowned Saul Bass; it conveys with energetic brevity the clash of human and mechanical forces in the great city of New York; traffic, the sides of tall buildings, overhead shots of pedestrians in crosswalks, flocks of pigeons, all convey a sense of anonymous people living at blurry speed. World news briefly flashes by in an electronic headline about Laos and its on-again, off-again leader, Souvanna Phouma.  In the final shot a speeding train morphs into a subway train from which Mary Ann emerges, saying “See you tomorrow” to some friends. It is about twelve minutes before the next line of dialogue occurs.

One might recall Robbe-Grillet’s line, “Rather swift and brutal rape scene,” looking at the sequence in which Mary Ann is snatched into the bushes from the walkway and raped.  The rapist consists mostly of large hands, a crew cut, and heavy shoes, though there are a couple of quick shots of the left side of his face, seen from the rear.  A necklace with a small metal cross on it is broken and tossed aside; there is a shot of Mary Ann’s upper thigh being pushed down onto a rock about the size of a small fist. For its time, the scene is unusually graphic and violent, but it appears to have met no resistance from the administrators of the Motion Picture Production Code, whose power was waning in the face of films coming to the United States from abroad.  Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (1960) includes an unusually disturbing rape scene that ends with the victim’s murder; it won the 1961 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

Mary Ann’s convalescence of about a week allows additional evidence of her mother’s self-absorption to show how incapable she is of change.  The contrast between mother and daughter is visually and psychologically striking.  Mary Ann has made unforgettable discoveries about what can happen to people at night in the city, and her mother’s small talk on the subject is profoundly irritating to her.  It may be this anger that helps gradually to build Mary Ann’s strength toward some sort of false recovery, despite and because of her apparent determination never to discuss the assault with anyone.

In a brief sequence in one of Mary Ann’s classrooms, the professor, off camera to the right, is speaking:

You remember the Elizabethans supposed them to secrete a cold poison, as in As You Like It:

Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.

In Karmel’s novel, the gradual diminution of Mary Ann’s sensitivity to sexual references invokes this example:  “When The Rape of Lucrece was mentioned in a class one day, she felt no shiver of reaction, but merely noted that the poem seemed unreal” (Karmel 25).  Here are lines 848-850 of Shakespeare’s poem, which contain its only reference to toads:

‘Why should the worm intrude the maiden bud?
Or hateful cuckoos hatch in sparrows’ nests?
Or toads infect fair founts with venom mud?


Few viewers of Something Wild will make this connection; it seems to have been put into the film to amuse or satisfy those viewers who have read Mary Ann, or the one viewer who wrote it.  Such glancing obscurities are not uncommon.  In Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, for example, there is an episode in which a young roan bull fights with a bear. In the television miniseries, this episode, which could never be filmed except by animation, is suggested to those in the know by alternating shots of a small roan bull and a bear on the fringes of the cattle drive.

After that class, Mary Ann leaves the campus, sits on a bus stop bench for few minutes, then rises and walks away, leaving her books. Two of the books can be seen to be a volume of Shakespeare and Principles of Physical Chemistry.  Combined with the copy of Joyce’s Dubliners which Mary Ann tries to read in bed while her mother is blathering on about the decline of the neighborhood, these books suggest that Mary Ann has been a student of some ambition.

As Mary Ann flees her books and all that they have meant, her surroundings appear less omnisciently, more through her eyes. The city’s crowds and noise bear down, but she presses on, finding herself at last in an area of run-down townhouses many of which rent rooms. When she decides to enter one of them in search of a room, the landlord (Martin Kosleck) and, a little later, a neighbor (Jean Stapleton) are allowed to overplay their menacing or annoying attributes, to emphasize Mary Ann’s continuing aversion to just about anybody. When the landlord tells her she must pay fifty cents a week extra for the amount of water she is using, she pays it immediately without speaking, dropping the quarters into a hand which he has extended into her personal space, its fingers clawlike.  However, in a later sequence when Mary Ann comes back to her room in a state of nausea, the landlord is helpful to her in ways she does not see.

When Mary Ann first encounters her neighbor, Shirley is lounging in a chair with one bare foot stretched into the hallway, filing her nails in front of a small electric fan. Later, she offers Mary Ann the opportunity to meet some of her “better type gentleman friends.” Mary Ann’s aversion to this prospect cools Shirley off, and she withdraws.



Among the tensions holding the film together are those arising from its falling into two nearly equal halves, the first set in various parts of the city, and the second (about twelve minutes longer than the first) almost entirely in Mike’s basement flat.  The action moves from above ground to the underground.  Among the forces that draw the two parts together into the whole is an understated visual symmetry provided by moments near the end of the film that visually echo moments from the beginning. Mary Ann’s mother first appears as Mary Ann is going to school the morning after the rape, and is quickly established as remarkably selfish; she makes her final appearance as the film ends, and demonstrates that she, at least, has undergone no change whatsoever, regardless of what has happened to Mary Ann.  Mary Ann’s stepfather (Charles Watts) speaks to her through the bedroom door the morning after the rape, then turns and descends the stairway, shaking his head as if to express how far beyond him these young people can be.  Mike makes almost exactly the same set of moves when he turns away from Mary Ann after she tells him that it was not someone in a bar fight, but she herself, who put out his eye.

Another parallel is that between Mary Ann’s cutting up her clothes with scissors and Mike’s maintenance of his scrapbook.  Mary Ann makes scraps that evoke the fragmented shots of stairwells and subway stops. She cuts one swatch in a diminishing curve, the elongated triangles dropping to the floor, before she scoops them up in her hands and drops them into the toilet. The blend of calmness and frenzy in this process is typical of what we now call post-traumatic stress, and what Karmel and Garfein would probably have called shock.  Later, a couple of days into her imprisonment in Mike’s apartment, Mike sits at his table with a scrapbook, scissors, a pastepot, and a small stack of magazines and newspapers, from which he cuts out pictures of attractive, sometimes socialite women. Mary Ann approaches the table and asks him what he is doing, and he replies that he is working on his scrapbook. His further explanation that he keeps things that interest him comes across as empty and sad, yet the care that he takes with his clippings appears also to be a way of having his own thing to do—as opposed to the things he may be presumed to do at the garage where he works, and whose dirt he tries valiantly and successfully to exclude from his apartment.  Further, Mary Ann skips for a few strides on her walk toward the park at the beginning of the film; she does not do so again until the walk she takes after being allowed out of Mike’s basement flat.  Finally, as Mary Ann and Mike embrace, there is a shot of the right side of Mike’s face from slightly behind that is a mirror image of the shot of the rapist at the beginning of the film.5

Moreover, the cinematographer’s attention to steep angles, plentiful enough in urban architecture, carries into the apartment in less obtrusive ways. The windows are barred, as is entirely typical of ground-level windows in the city, but to Mary Ann they are additional reminders of her situation.  There is a moment early in her imprisonment when she turns from the window to the door, and the shadow of the bars follows her along the carpet (see Figure 5).

Shadows Real and Artificial: Two Film Masterpieces of 1961, Henry Taylor, Literature Film Quarterly
Figure 5: Mike and Mary Ann in Mike’s apartment

These details, subtle enough to escape conscious notice, contribute to the film’s plausibility. The question is how Mike’s imprisonment of Mary Ann can in any way persuade her that this is where she belongs.  In the first few days of her abduction, she asks to be released, sometimes pleading, sometimes demanding, but always to no avail. During these confrontations Mike sometimes reveals an explosive temper, but his outbursts are spoken, not physical.  When he is sober, Mike is more than she can overcome, and even when he has passed out, Mary Ann cannot bring herself to take the keys from his pocket.  Furthermore, the effects of the initial rape by the unidentified vagrant continue to keep Mary Ann in a fatigued,  acquiescent state previously unfamiliar to her.  In a dream sequence during which she reverts to her high school years and revisits a field trip to an art museum, she simultaneously participates as a classmate and stands off as an adult, observing.  The girls converge on a painting of satyrs and nymphs, probably called the rape of someone or other, and start giggling. The adult Mary Ann turns from the picture to them, all of whom are revealed to have no facial features. (see Figure 6).  She turns back to the painting, now shown as a detail in the foreground: a stag’s head upside down, resting on its antlers.  Its eye rolls slowly from its socket down toward its ear.  Mary Ann flees, and runs through the park where she was raped.  She dreams the rape and wakes up screaming; Mike shakes her gently, and she screams and pushes at him, then says, with stunning meek politeness, “Oh, excuse me. I had a bad dream.” They then exchange two or three lines about which of them is “going loony,” in Mike’s phrase.  This is one of the strongest reminders in the film that, although the audience knows Mary Ann has been raped, no character other than Mary Ann has any inkling of it.  (The rapist is so thoroughly a non-character that he is not even credited.)

Shadows Real and Artificial: Two Film Masterpieces of 1961, Henry Taylor, Literature Film Quarterly
Figure 6: Faceless schoolgirls at the art museum in Mary Ann’s dream

Early in their time in the tiny apartment, Mike surprises Mary Ann by waking her to a steak dinner over which he has taken some care.  Mike is wearing a new eye-patch, and indicates that the loss of his eye is permanent.  As they sit at the carefully-set table, Mike pours them each a glass of wine, and takes a generous mouthful of his share of the steak. Mary Ann approaches her plate with temerity, finally saying that she isn’t hungry, and Mike quickly replies that he isn’t either, and removes the plates.  He offers Mary Ann more wine, though she has only taken one small sip; she places her hand over her glass and says she doesn’t care for it.  Mike replies that he doesn’t either, and again rises and removes the glasses, pouring their contents down the sink.  He then sits on his bed, directly behind the chair he was using, and tells Mary Ann that he wants her to be his wife.  It becomes clear that what he means among other things is that he wants to have sex with her right now.  Mary Ann protests that she can’t do that, and Mike says, “What’s wrong with me?”  Plenty, one might think, you’re an alcoholic whack job, for starters, but Mary Ann replies that it is she who can’t.  Besides, she says, you don’t know who I am.  Mike replies, “Who are you?” There is a cut to a close-up of Mary Ann’s face; it is clear that this is a question she cannot answer now: she remains the only person in the film who knows that she is a rape survivor who used to be a student and was most recently a counter girl in a five-and-ten and is now the prisoner of a man who may or may not have saved her life.

The sequence continues as Mike rises from the bed and approaches Mary Ann, who has retreated to her end of the L-shaped flat. There is a near-replay of Mike’s first drunken approach to her. This time he is sober, but drops toward a kneeling posture to continue his pleading proposal, and Mary Ann finally says that if he comes closer she will kick out his other eye just as she did the first. There follows her weeping confession, which shows Mike that things are not where he had hoped they were.  He says “It’s going to take a lot longer,” then turns away, shaking his head.  When he goes out, he turns toward her and says, “I still need you.”  Mary Ann’s unspeaking reaction is a blend of disbelief, horror, and acceptance.  She sinks down onto her bed, sobbing openly for the first time in the film, but a few minutes later feels a breeze from the door, which Mike has left unlocked.

The sequence in which Mary Ann quickly exits the flat and walks around the city is crucial to understanding the film’s conclusion. At first, her walk is a celebration of her freedom; it even includes her falling asleep in a small park not unlike the one where she was raped. The music is jazzy and danceable.  When she wakes the next morning, she drinks from a public fountain and washes her face, speaking cheerfully to a woman who walks by with her dog; she buys an apple from a fruit stand and later tosses the core jauntily into a trash barrel.  Meanwhile the city teems around her, almost entirely free of the dark, slanting shadows and silhouettes that loom over earlier sequences.  At one point a ball escapes from a playground and hits the ground near her. She retrieves it and tosses it back over the high fence made of wrought iron bars like those over Mike’s windows; here they pose no threat.  As she approaches a crosswalk, she pauses, looks to her right, and realizes that Mike’s flat is just steps away.

The few seconds in which she stands considering the meaning of her having more or less unconsciously arrived at this spot, and what to do about it, display some of Baker’s best acting in the film.  Her performance throughout has been called the best in her career, and it may be, but there are moments when she reveals that she is in over her head. This is not one of them.  She turns toward the flat and picks up just the right small increment of speed, conveying not only her decision but her certainty that it is the right one for her.



Both of these films were controversial when they appeared, and have remained so, though Marienbad has received far more attention.  Garfein has even suggested in an interview (Johnson, p. 40) that if a little more time had elapsed between the releases of La Notte and Marienbad on the one hand and Something Wild on the other, people would have had a better chance of seeing what he was doing.  Otto Preminger, furthermore, is reported to have told Garfein that Something Wild would have done better if it had been shot in a foreign language with subtitles.

Garfein and Preminger were both American directors, but it is worth remembering that they were born and partly raised in Europe, and that Garfein called immediately on a German cinematographer for Something Wild.  He had his fingers on a pulse that was not yet very apparent to American audiences.

The pulse drives toward risk and innovation.  A feeling that sexuality, either consensual or not, had been off limits for too long, seems to have burst forth in the very early 1960s, at a time when filmmaking was even more male-dominated than it continues to be now.  Marienbad keeps much of that below its opulent surface, but the surface has been constructed to indicate strongly what is below it.  Something Wild opens with a rape both quick and vicious; the depth of the trauma is the main impression conveyed in it.  Marienbad is tense throughout with the presence and forced absence of rape, yet it manages to retain qualities of a comedy of manners. Something Wild leans more toward tragedy.

It is widely acknowledged that a given interpretation of Marienbad is one of many.  Among the most thorough, careful, and well-written contributions to the entire collection was made in the 1990s by Lynn A. Higgins, first in the final chapter of a book she co-edited, (Higgins, “Screen/Memory”) and second in the third chapter of a book of her own. (Higgins, New Novel)  As she puts it in the second of these, “Marienbad systematically teases its viewers by preventing them from piecing together any single coherent narrative that would exclude the competing presence of numerous other potential stories” (Higgins, New Novel 87). The earlier essay, “Screen/Memory: Rape and Its Alibis in Last Year at Marienbad,” applies elements of postmodernist and feminist criticism to the film. This examination of denials, innuendoes, and revisions strongly indicates how rape is made a likely part of the meeting “last year” between X and A.  Higgins demonstrates the “inscription” of rape, which does not include “description” of rape, in X’s inadequate denials of rape, and in A’s manner in his presence, which is often fearful, characterized by self-protective gestures and pleas to be let alone.  Higgins’s title provides for two uses of the word “screen”; there is the obvious one, and one coined by Freud, who used the phrase “screen memory” to denote trivial childhood memories that conceal some more troubling event of about the same time (Higgins, “Screen/Memory” 306-307).

Higgins shows how the theme of rape is both presented and denied, or “inscribed and erased” in the film, offering the proposition that A was raped by X in that past he is trying simultaneously to evoke and to revise.  Concerning the two versions of X’s entry into A’s room, she writes:

What is extraordinary here is not that the story is revised—that a brutal approach and metaphorical “penetration” into A’s room are recast as a warm welcome and that, even in the initial scene, resistance is depicted as erotic. (In everyday parlance, no means yes.)  What is extraordinary is that both versions coexist in the finished film.  Instead of the product of revision, then, what we are given is the process itself.  But of course the second scene does not replace the first.  Watching the second version, we, as spectators, remember what happened last time. We are witnesses (accomplices?) to the construction of an alibi (Higgins, “Screen/Memory” 309-310).


To this view of the two scenes I add that the overexposed quality of the second gives it the look of a work in progress, a rough draft whose details may be sharpened as the revision develops in X’s head.

In New Novel, New Wave, New Politics, Higgins’s theme is that the authors and filmmakers of the New Novel and the New Wave have subtly represented the troubled politics of the times in which their works were made, even as they have declared that their work is apolitical. The periods under examination are those of the Algerian War (1954-1962), the May 1968 protests, and the return in the 1980s of French guilt and denial and revision of the occupation during World War II.  Chapter 3 is “Figuring Out: L’Année dernière à Marienbad.”  It contains references and even verbatim passages from Higgins’s earlier essay, and continues to be convincing concerning the rape question, but the primary focus of the piece is on the ways in which Marienbad reveals that the Algerian conflict was a presence in the consciousness of its creators.

Despite the background of her earlier essay, there is one point in her second discussion when she unwittingly shows that it had been too long since she saw Marienbad. The discussion concerns two speeches by X, which she describes as “In the scenario (but not on the screen).” The first is at about two thirds of the way through the film, when X and A are walking along an unusually lengthy corridor (put together from three different locations), and he is narrating part of their former encounter. The second is between the two versions of X’s entry into A’s bedroom, about fifteen minutes from the end of the film.  Higgins quotes a few lines from each as they appear in the Grove Press edition of the script at the bottoms of pp. 115 and 147, and concludes, “Deletion of these remarks from the finished film not only revokes the reference to coercion but also obscures the fact that it is X who deliberately rewrites the story” (Higgins, New Novel 93).

Actually, both speeches occur in the film, with the deletion of only eight (very important) words.  Beginning at 00:59:39, X says (in my translation), “You were always afraid.  But I loved your fear that evening.  I watched you, letting you struggle a little. I loved you.  I loved you. There was something in your eyes, you were alive . . . finally . . . at the beginning . . . remember . . . Oh but no . . . Probably it was not by force . . . but only you know that.”  Higgins quotes these lines as they appear in Howard’s translation of the script, where, between “finally” and “at the beginning,” there occurs the statement, “I took you, half by force (Je vous ai prise, à moitié de force).”  Much nearer the end of the film, between the two shots of X’s entry into A’s bedroom, X vehemently denies that there was force. The only words from these two sequences that appear in the script but not in the film are “I took you, half by force.” Despite that admission’s having been cut, these two speeches remain the strongest pointers to the likelihood that a rape occurred, and that X is revising as he goes.

This error is small compared to Higgins’s achievement, which is convincingly to establish X’s rape of A as one of the strong readings of their interaction. This approach can even be applied in reverse to certain problems in Something Wild.  There, the rape is depicted in a fashion that invites no doubt that it is a literal part of the story.  However, Mary Ann tries thereafter to make sure that no one else ever finds out about it.  She conceals it from the characters she encounters, but many times the viewers’ knowledge of the rape enables them to understand why Mary Ann shrinks from physical contact, tells Mike nothing about her nightmare, or tells her mother that what has happened is what has happened.  This constant presence of viewers’ knowledge that a main character might benefit by behaving differently is a primary ingredient of classical tragedy.

Paradoxically, Higgins’s conclusion of this part of her essay includes observations that could apply to both films:

If we apply to the film Freud’s analysis of screen memories while keeping in mind Robbe-Grillet’s injunction to look for content in form, we can conclude that the story depicts not a rape but a rhetoric of rape, and the image’s meaning is neither in violence nor its absence but in the relationship between the two. The rape has not been covered up; the film has no secrets. What we see is the process of revision and rewriting—the mechanisms of censorship. (Higgins New Novel 96)


Higgins notes the flaws in M’s identification of a statue that A and X have been discussing. Before M comes along, X offers a ridiculous explanation for the presence of a dog in the piece: “The dog isn’t with them. He just happened to be passing.” When A persists that the dog is “snuggling up to his mistress,” X makes a smart-alec remark notable for its conflation of form and content: “He’s snuggling up to her because the pedestal is too narrow.”  The statue, that is, represents the statue.  As Higgins demonstrates, when M offers “some more precise information,” that the statue “represents Charles III and his wife . . . before the Diet, at the moment of the trial for treason” (Robbe-Grillet/Howard 66 and 69), he is putting together a fiction: “Although the three historical markers given . . . sound authentic enough, there is no such historical personage” (Higgins, New Novel 104). This moment, incidentally, is the only one in the film in which M addresses both A and X at the same time—though M directly addresses only X: “Pardon me, dear sir. I believe I can inform you in a manner more precise.” (My translation)  M’s voice here has the same confidence that he exudes when he declares of the nim game that he can lose, but always wins. The sentence as spoken ends with a majestically caressed second syllable of “precise.”  I am reminded that beginning students of land surveying are early introduced to the distinction between precision and accuracy. Six shots near the center of a target are both precise and accurate, but if an identical cluster of shots is in an outer ring of the target, you have precision but not accuracy.  This is the case with M’s explanation of the statue.

Higgins is persuasive that the French political situation during the period of Marienbad’s filming can be sensed in occasional swift moments in the film.  Its questionable use of a king named Charles reminds the viewer that de Gaulle was referred to as “le roi Charles” by some of his less enthusiastic observers. Moreover, X’s reference to two or three famous spas will bring Vichy to some minds (Higgins, New Novel, 103, 105).  These veiled references are also reminders that during the Algerian war the French government was poised and ready to apply censorship wherever it seemed needed.

The problem of censorship in the United States took other forms.  Jack Garfein had been subjected to the excision of some three minutes of his first film, in which the theme of homosexuality is prominent. As noted above, the Production Code was not applied to Something Wild, probably because the rape scene is handled so carefully, with a nearly total emphasis on violence rather than sexuality. Furthermore, the political background at the time of filming Something Wild had little or no bearing on Garfein’s project.  The reference in Bass’s title sequence to Laotian troubles is so swift as to be nearly subliminal, and subsequent headlines in newspapers held by characters in the film do not involve national or international news.  The crucial matter in this film is Mary Ann’s concealment of what happened to her as only the camera watched.

The surprising ending makes sense if Mary Ann’s keeping silent about the rape is seen as a classical hamartia, an error of judgment that leads to the tragic conclusion: the inner resources which might have enabled Mary Ann to reject Mike forever have been damaged or destroyed, and she cannot recover them without the help she refuses or fears to seek.  There is determination in her telling her mother that she is living the life she has chosen, but there is also a strong undercurrent of sadness.  She has married a man who has imprisoned her and attempted to rape her.  She is not making a joyful announcement, and cannot answer her mother’s final question, “What has happened?” with anything but “What’s happened has happened, Mother.”  From an attempt at a mutually consoling hug with her mother, Mary Ann reaches out toward Mike, who is silent throughout this scene, takes his hand and smiles tearfully at him, as if to suggest that things are all right.  In a visual declaration that small people are as nothing in large cities, there is a cut to a bridge-dominated cityscape, the background for a large block-print “The End,” with a brass fanfare from Copland, whose sensitivity to this film was a stroke of good fortune for its director.



I have said that I saw these films during my second year at the University of Virginia, in 1962. This was eight years before the University began the three-year process of becoming fully coeducational, and the atmosphere there was powerfully male-dominated. There were women in the School of Nursing and in various graduate schools, and they must have endured overwhelming amounts of male gazing.  In that context the extent to which Marienbad is male-dominated, even anti-feminist, was virtually invisible to most of its viewers.  Few or none would have noticed, or wanted to find out, that all but about two of the lines of dialogue spoken by women are in direct response to men, or that “Script-girl” was an approved term for crediting the resourceful work of Sylvette Baudrot.  This was the milieu in which one could see a happy ending in Mary Ann’s being married to Mike and expecting his child. In this view the trauma of her actual rape, and the memory of Mike’s drunken attempt at rape, are swept under his threadbare rug.

My notion that these two films can be paired in rewarding ways was at first nothing more than a notion, based on a decades-old complex of recollections and re-viewings.  Neither could have influenced the other, since they were made so near the same time, so I have resisted mentioning similar moments that are no more than coincidences, enjoyable as some of them have been for me. Just one: among the cuts that show time passing in Mike’s apartment, one finds Mary Ann in a dress she has not previously worn. Her imprisonment has been strict enough that its presence is hard to explain, but it makes a fun echo of A’s instantaneous costume changes.  So this exercise has not brought my viewing of these films to a close. Before long I will watch Marienbad with the sound and the subtitles off, experiencing it as I might a slide show of great paintings. Something Wild, which quietly haunted me for decades, will continue to do so.


1  Much more recently, he read a version of this essay and suggested that I submit it to this journal.

2  Lynn A. Higgins, in New Novel, New Wave, New Politics, notes that “traditionally, the last token goes to the winner, whereas in the film the player who takes the last token loses.” (90)

3  Though these identifiers are external to the film itself, I will continue to use them for the sake of space and convenience.

4  Resnais asked Albertazzi to preserve an Italian accent in French so as to show that his narration was not intended as an interior monologue. (Cowie)

5  Among the few and scattered discussions of Something Wild to be found on the Internet, there is a school of thought that holds Mike and the rapist to be the same person. Close observation of the rape scene renders this insupportable.

Works Cited

Baudrot, Sylvette, Jean Léon, Jacques Saulnier, Volker Schlöndorff. “The Making of Marienbad.” “Supplements.”  Last Year at Marienbad.  DVD. New York: The Criterion Collection, 2009.

Brunius, Jacques. “Every Year in Marienbad.” Sight and Sound, Summer 1962, pp. 122-127, 153.

Cowie, Peter. “A Voyage Into Memory and the Subconscious.” Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2011, p. C 13.

Higgins, Lynn A. “Screen/Memory: Rape and Its Alibis in Last Year at Marienbad.” In Lynn A. Higgins and Brenda R. Silver, Rape and Representation. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991, pp. 303-321.

--------. New Novel, New Wave, New Politics: Fiction and the Representation of History in Postwar France. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Johnson, Albert. “Jack Garfein: An Interview.” Film Quarterly, Vol. XVII, No. 1 (Fall 1963).

Karmel, Alex. Mary Ann. New York: The Viking Press, 1958.

Last Year at Marienbad. Transfer and supplementary materials. The Criterion Collection, 2009.

Leutrat, Jean-Louis. L’Année Dernière à Marienbad (Last Year In Marienbad). Translated by Paul Hammond. London: British Film Institute, 2000.

O’Malley, Sheila. “Last Chances.” Printed insert. Something Wild. Directed by Jack Garfein. Blu-Ray DVD. New York: The Criterion Collection, 2017.

Rennebohm, Kate. “Wild Things: The Strange Cinema of Jack Garfein.” Cinema Scope, Issue 63 (Summer 2015).

Resnais, Alain. “Audio Interview with François Thomas.” Last Year at Marienbad. Supplements.  DVD. New York: The Criterion Collection, 2009.

Robbe-Grillet, Alain. L’Année Dernière à Marienbad: Ciné-roman. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1961.

Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Last Year at Marienbad: Text for the Film by Alain Resnais. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Grove Press, 1962. Cited as Robbe-Grillet/Howard.

Thomas, François. L’Atelier d’Alain Resnais. Paris: Editions Flammarion, 1989.

Thomas, François. “The Myth of ‘Perfect Harmony.’” Printed Insert. Last Year at Marienbad. Directed by Alain Resnais. Blu-Ray DVD. New York: The Criterion Collection, 2009.

Tomasulo, Frank P. “The Intentionality of Consciousness in Last Year at Marienbad.”  https://www.academia.edu/6948303/The_Intentionality_of_Consciousness_Subjectivity_ in_LAST_YEAR_AT_MARIENBAD. An earlier version of this essay originally appeared as “The Intentionality of Consciousness: Subjectivity in  Last Year at Marienbad,” Post Script 7.2 (Winter 1988): 58-71.

Vincendeau, Ginette. “On Last Year at Marienbad.” “Supplements.”  Last Year at Marienbad.  DVD. New York:The Criterion Collection, 2009.

Wagner, Geoffrey. The Novel and The Cinema. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1975.