Film (1967). Parc/Fox Europa. Directed by Alain Resnais. Written by Resnais, Jacques Sternberg. Cast includes Anouk Ferjac, Olga Georges-Picot and Claude Rich. 94 minutes, cut to 82 minutes. Colour.
A failed suicide is co-opted into a dangerous scientific experiment; he is to be sent back into the past for one minute. The experiment has proved safe for mice, but humans are conscious of time and memory in a way that animals are not, and the protagonist is trapped in a series of not-quite-random time oscillations around the point of an unhappy love affair. Where Resnais's previous study of time and memory, Last Year at Marienbad (1961), was a triumph for the cameraman, this film is a triumph for the editor. Some of the oscillations last only seconds, some minutes, sometimes replaying the same scene (with subtle variations) several times over, sometimes visiting fantasy events as if this second time around they were real – memory, with its distortions, carrying the same metaphysical weight as fact. The Time Machine itself is organic and womb-like, and from it the hero emerges into the amniotic fluid of the sea. This is a very striking sf film, though only almost incidentally sf; it uses the idea of Time Travel to explore the extent to which we can, or cannot, withdraw ourselves from our own pasts, and hence from the processes of time. The screenwriter, Sternberg, is an sf writer of distinction and sophistication. [PN]
see also: Cinema.
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