Marguerite Duras embarked on a second career as a film director in the late
1960s; by then was already a well-known and highly acclaimed novelist and
playwright. Bearing in mind this dual influence, this book presents an outline
of Duras's early life and of her later political preoccupations,
highlighting the relationship between these two dimensions and her films.
Duras's aim was to transcend the limitations of both literature and cinema
by creating an écriture filmique. Working within the 1970s French
avant-garde, Marguerite Duras set out to dismantle the mechanisms of mainstream
cinema, progressively undermining conventional representation and narrative and
replacing them with her own innovative technique. The making of Nathalie
Granger in 1972 coincided with the period of intense political activity and
lively theoretical debates, which marked the early years of the post-1968 French
feminist movement. India Song questions the categories of gender and
sexuality constructed by the patriarchal Symbolic order by foregrounding the
Imaginary. Agatha mirrors transgressive relationship and quasi-incestuous
adolescent relationship, as the film resonates with the off-screen voices of
Duras and Yann Andréa who also appears on the image-track where he represents
Agatha's anonymous brother. Her work, both in literature and in film,
distinguishes itself by its oblique, elusive quality which evokes her
protagonists' inner landscape instead of dwelling on the appearances of the
When she embarked on a second career as
a film director in the late 1960s, MargueriteDuras was already a well-known
and highly acclaimed novelist and playwright who had published fourteen
literary texts since her first novel Les Impudents (1943). What binds
her fictional texts and her films together is that both are inhabited by the
people, places and events of her life, as she remarked in an interview with
MargueriteDuras was one of the great
innovators of twentieth-century cinema and literature. Yet her films, even
more so than her novels, have sometimes been criticised for being too
abstract and intellectual, accessible only to a select group of initiates.
Such criticism is quite unjustified, however, since her work reflects not
only the passion and sadness of her personal experience, but also her deep
deprivation and exile. The
repeated verbal association between the cat and leprosy, furthermore,
connects Aurélia Melbourne with India Song, as we are reminded
of Calcutta and the starving beggarwoman from Savannakhet (Duras 1979 : 122, 124). Similarly, the theme of exile links
Aurélia Steiner not only to Anne-Marie Stretter but ultimately also to
MargueriteDuras herself. At the end of the film it is only when the cat
noted, because of the troubling effects of her films, critics have tended to
dismiss them as artistic provocation, ‘alors que les films de MargueriteDuras sont toujours ouvertement politiques’ 1 (Prédal 1977 : 16).
The political dimension of her work derived from her understanding that
film, like literature, is inseparable from the society within which it is
produced and that its representations of the world serve not merely to
M . et al.
( 1979 ), MargueriteDuras, Paris , Editions Albatros .
M . and Gauthier , X . ( 1974 ), Les
Parleuses, Paris , Minuit .
M . and Noguez , D . ( 1984 ), La
Couleur des mots, interview, BAC.
Hayward , S .
( 1993 ), French National Cinema, London , Routledge .
Heathcote , O . ( 2000
auteur tradition in
French cinema, ‘a romantic tradition of humanist individualism which
constitutes the bedrock of French critical approaches to film’
(Vincendeau 1987 : 7).
auteurs : MargueriteDuras and Agnès Varda
Two of the principal auteurs in
French film since the 1960s, women whose idiosyncratic styles epitomise
avant-garde auteur cinema, are Marguerite
-Claude Brisseau (Choses secrètes, 2002 and Les Anges
Moreover, Breillat has been a leading light among an ever-increasing
number of French female directors who are using the medium of
film to explore women’s desires. Continuing in the tradition of foremothers Agnès Varda and MargueriteDuras, Breillat’s films have an
affinity with those of her contemporary cinematic sisters, including
Claire Denis, Virginie Despentes, Danièle Dubroux, Jeanne Labrune
and Brigitte Roüan. Without the inspirational example of Breillat’s
courage (and international success
discuss Samuel Beckett’s Fin de partie (Endgame, 1957)
and Happy Days (1961); MargueriteDuras’s Yes, peut-être (Yes, Maybe,
1968); and Edward Bond’s The Tin Can People (1984, the second part
of his War Plays trilogy). The remainder of the chapter analyses two
plays that evoke the Holocaust in an abstract fashion: Józef Szajna’s
Replika (Replica, produced in various iterations from 1971 to 1988)
and Howard Barker’s Found in the Ground (published in 2001 and
produced in 2009).
Some of these plays are not well known, though they are deserving of critical attention