Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#606: The Green Ray

Directed by: ERIC ROHMER
1986, TSPDT Rank #350

Eric Rohmer was a master at exploring the minutiae of human nature, the tiny details within his characters' interactions that hint at some hidden truth not usually discussed or even acknowledged. In The Green Ray, Rohmer eases the viewer into a character study of Delphine, a lonely young woman who finds the prospect of summer vacation unbearable, as she has no one to share it with. At first she just seems indecisive and flighty, but eventually we realize that it's something deeper. She leaves Paris to three different vacation spots, and each time finds herself alone with nature - not comforted, but instead made even more aware of her isolation. These quiet scenes are the most powerful moments in the film: the frame becomes filled with rich greens and blues, and Delphine's inner feelings can be sensed as she moves through the beautiful landscapes in a somber recognition of her empty emotional state.

But Rohmer chooses these moments carefully, never wallowing in them or forcing them upon the audience. Instead, the effect is subtle and fleeting, and the viewer is otherwise given plenty of occasions to watch Delphine in various attempts at social interaction, searching for something to hold on to, attempting to make connections with those around her. Then, Delphine overhears a discussion of Jules Verne's novel The Green Ray, and the rare light effect to which the novel (and the film) owes its title to. This phenomenon is never fully explained, acting as a mysterious force as the film moves towards its conclusion.

While the conclusion is abrupt and ambiguous, it gives the film the feeling of a parable, from which the viewer is meant to draw their own conclusions. Was there value in Delphine's journey, or was it all merely a random series of disappointments followed by an equally random moment of satisfaction? Is there hope in the film's final scene, or is it merely a mirage, to be followed by more misery? Rohmer doesn't answer these questions, leaving the viewer with a feeling that Delphine's journey is only just beginning, and that there's no real resolution in life - only a collection of fleeting moments that we must attempt to make sense of in retrospect.

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