Literariness in the films of Eric Rohmer (2008)
AuthorsVonderheide, Leahshow all
This thesis is an exploration of the writings and films of French filmmaker, Eric Rohmer. I give an overview of the historical context of Rohmer and his work, as well as explore the notion of literariness, literariness in film, and literariness in the films of Eric Rohmer. Though Rohmer was widely known as a cinéaste, he helped shape the French New Wave from the position of critical writer. In the early fifties, Rohmer joined François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette to write for the newly established Cahiers du Cinéma. I analyze how Rohmer’s critical work at the Cahiers, as well as his later film work, responds to theories of literariness in film from Alexandre Astruc and François Truffaut. Rohmer invokes literariness when he creates films in series. Just as the moral tale serves as the literary model for each of the films in Six contes moraux/Six Moral Tales, the fairy tale serves as the model for each seasonal tale in Contes des quatre saisons/Tales of the Four Seasons. The literary models that Rohmer uses to create his films can be considered “light” forms, such as the moral tale or the fairy tale. However, the content of his films often relies on “heavy” literature, such as Blaise Pascal’s Pensées/Thoughts or William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Each chapter examines a particular film to explore the various dimensions of “light” and “heavy” literature, and how they inform the textual strategies of Rohmer’s films. The films that I analyse, Ma Nuit chez Maud/My Night at Maud’s (1969), La Marquise d’O…/The Marquise d’O… (1976), La Femme de l’aviateur/The Aviator’s Wife (1980), and Conte d’hiver/A Tale of Winter (1992), represent a cross-section of Rohmer’s work as an auteur. Analysis reveals that each film speaks to “literariness” in its own way.