Brilliant! One of the greatest films of the French New Wave!
By reading a few reviews online and talking to some people from my film class, I have discovered that "My Night at Maud's" by Eric Rohmer was not the most entertaining film for many. One review I read compared watching this film with watching paint dry. In a way, I can understand why one would say that; this film is full of in depth philosophic dialogue and lacks a variety of settings. Although many find this film boring, for me, this is definitely one of the best films shown in this class.
This film kept my attention the whole time and I did not look away from it once. The most interesting aspect of this film for me was the way Rohmer conjoined contrasting elements. In "My Night at Maud's," Rohmer built bridges between simplicity and complexity and Catholicism and Atheism.
This film is complex and simple in so many ways. Simplicity is demonstrated in the cinematography, the plot, and Rohmer's choice of sets. The lack of variety in film settings is evident since almost the whole film takes place in Maud's and Franciose's apartments. The only other settings are a beach, a cafe, hilltop, a hilltop covered in snow, and a church. Simplicity is also exhibited in the film's cinematography. The traditional shot-reverse shot pattern most films use is limited in "My Night at Mauds." Instead, the actors are shown on screen for extended periods of time. Even if a character is not speaking, the camera does not immediately switch to the character who is speaking, it remains in the same place. Furthermore, the film does not use tracking and panning extensively. Also, the film's storyline is so simple as well; it is about a man named Jean who spends a night with a women who was married to a man who had an affair with Jean's future wife Franciose. Although the film physically appears to be uncomplicated, it possesses a great deal of complexity as well; this is displayed in the content of the film's dialogue. The in-depth religious, philosophical and political discussions make this film somewhat difficult to understand. I must admit that trying to fully understand the dialogues in the film was a challenge for me and I believe I still do not fully understand everything; however, this challenge is what kept me engaged in the film. If the content of a movie is straightforward and easy to understand, my mind shuts down, I lose interest, and I no longer pay attention. Due to the script's complexity, this was not the case for me during the screening of "My Night at Maud's."
Two other contrasting elements that Rohmer conjoins in this film are Atheism and Catholicism. Jean, the main character of the film is a devout Catholic. The other central character, Maud is somewhat of an Atheist. For me, it was very interesting to see what the product of a meeting between an Atheist and a Catholic would be. During the film, the encounter between Maud and Jean produced a great deal of suspense. When Jean and Maud first meet, in addition to conversations about Blaise Pascal and religion, Maud and Jean talked about sex, relationships, and the relationships they had in the past. Throughout this whole scene I was wondering if Jean was going to have sex with Maud. At times during this scene I believed they would have sex, and at other times I believed the wouldn't. The fact that Jean is such a devout Catholic and is interested in only blond Catholic girls made me think they would not sleep together. Although Maud is a brunette atheist, she is still very attractive and very seductive so there was still a possibility they would have sex. Rohmer plays with the audience's emotions even further when he makes the audience think that nothing would happen between Maud and Jean due to the fact that Jean fall asleep in an armchair, and then shows them in bed together in the morning. The scene in Maud's apartment was definitely a roller coaster of emotions for me. Ultimately, Jean does not sleep with Maud, but he does give in to temptation for a short time.
I must admit that I was angry that Jean did not fully give in to his desires. I felt that he was betraying his emotions and lying to himself by not sleeping with Maud. It made me even angrier when near the end of the film he tells Franciose that he slept with Maud. I still do not understand why he lied about his night at Maud's.
Although I do not fully understand some aspects of this film such as the content of the dialogue, I really enjoyed it. It kept me fully engaged due to the fact that it made me think, and it created suspense with the relationship between Maud and Jean. "My Night at Maud's" is the third of six moral tales by Eric Rohmer. After watching this film I have a great desire to see the other five.