Alain Resnais's third feature film, like his earlier Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad, is devoted to the vagaries of memory. The title character is seen only in the 8-millimeter films run over and over again by Bernard (Jean-Baptiste Thierée). A veteran of the French/Algerian war, Bernard was obliged to participate in the torture murder of Muriel, an Algerian girl accused of sabotage. He is no more successful at recapturing or altering his past than is his stepmother Helene (Delphine Seyrig), who attempts to rekindle a romance with Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Kerien). Practically everyone else in the cast follows the lead of the leads by dwelling on Things Past to the detriment of the Present. Resnais' scriptwriter on Muriel ou le Temps d'un Retou was Jean Cayrol, whose earlier collaboration with the director yielded the celebrated short subject Night and Fog.
by Hal Erickson synopsis