Memoir of War


In Nazi-occupied Paris, the young writer Marguerite Duras strikes up a delicate, high stakes entanglement with a Vichy collaborator named Rabier, who promises preferential treatment for her imprisoned husband in exchange for her attention and collaboration. As the drumbeat of arrests of Jews and political dissidents carries on, the celebrated experimental author is wracked with fear for her husband and for the circle of friends and anti-Nazi activists whose identities Rabier pressures her to reveal. Based on The War: A Memoir, Duras’s autobiographical memoir, and directed by Emmanuel Finkiel (Voyages, SFJFF 2000) the action is driven by Marguerite’s love for her husband, but complicated by the sadomasochistic undertones of her meetings with Rabier.

Simply called La Douleur (pain) in French, the film is rife with the tension of grievances not uttered and desires not named. As the war rages on, the mysteries pile up: Will her husband be deported? Will Marguerite betray her friends? What does Rabier really want from her, and will she give it to him? The film’s literary, impressionistic style lifts the film beyond the specificity of 1944 into the realm of the timeless. Both a story of war and a story of yearning, Memoir of War instills an oft-depicted era with a sense of thoughtfulness that infuses both her yearning and her political critique. —Ilana Sichel

After working as an assistant director for Bertrand Tavernier, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Jean-Luc Godard, Emmanuel Finkiel now makes his own movies, including Madame Jacques on the Croisette (1997), Voyages (1999) and Casting (2002). 

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