‘Memoir of War’ VIFF film review
By C J Sommerfeld, Columnist
The film Memoir of War is a period piece set during World War II in Paris, France. Based on a true story, it follows Marguerite Duras—played by the beautiful Mélanie Thierry—and her long, protracted wait for her husband Robert to return from war. (Spoilers ahead!)
The film is narrated by protagonist Duras, reading and reliving what she had previously written in her journal while her husband was away. The film begins with Duras enlightening the viewer that she does not have any recollection of writing such monstrosities in her journal. She does, however, recognize the idiolect to be hers and the described events to run parallel with what she remembers of her life while her husband was away, confirming that she had been the one who had written the journal entries. This acknowledgement of her stress-induced memory loss, paired with the muted colour palette of the opening scenes, sets the melancholy tone for the film.
All two hours and six minutes of the film (opt for the large bag of popcorn when watching this one) were crafted around Duras waiting for her husband Robert to return from war. The slow, drawn-out storyline really makes the viewer feel like they, too, are waiting a lifetime for their husband to return from war. Similarly, the gauziness of the colours on screen encapsulates the viewer, allowing them to feel the collective gloom which hung over Paris during this time. Additionally, blurred and out-of-focus camera shots help the viewer empathize further with Duras’ distorted head space. All these factors contribute to getting so emotionally absorbed into the film, you almost forget that your emotions (and location) are separate from Duras’.
The film follows Duras running around her melancholic city, trying to gather information about Robert’s location. She dodges advances of other men (and all offers of food) as her mind is preoccupied with her husband’s safe return. As the film wraps up, the long-awaited reunion materializes. However, although this was ultimately what both protagonist and viewer had waited for, upon Robert’s reappearance both Duras and the viewer realize that they had been obsessed about the action of his return and not the return of his presence in her life. Duras’s emotions regarding the two are independent of each other; she waited anxiously for him to come back safe without truly wanting to be in his presence.
It is an age-old notion that everything is more enticing when it is not present in your life. The grass is always greener on the other side—is it not? Maybe that grass is always greener because your mind has fertilized it more than your own.