Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Nouvelle Vague legend Alain Resnais continued to redefine cinematic language and take enormous risks with this late career effort, written and helmed when the director was 89, on the heels of his arthouse success Herbes folles. At the outset of the story, thirteen French theater actors each receive a call informing them that the stage director Antoine d'Anthac has died. These thespians share a common thread -- all appeared previously in various productions of Jean Anouilh's play Eurydice. The players get summoned to one of d'Anthac's mansions (a trope lifted from Anouilh's Dear Antoine), where they are asked to evaluate taped versions of a new theatrical company's take on Eurydice. In the process, the film begins to cut between several contrasting "visions" of the play, beginning with a stripped-down, warehouse-set rendition of it. Throughout, several different French couples portray the doomed lovers Orpheus and Eurydice. The interpretations vie with one another for the guests' shared attention. As the performers follow the action with wide eyes, they instinctively begin to repeat passages of dialogue and then physically step into green-screened scenes from the production. Among Resnais' many themes in the film is the extent of the loyalty and devotion that actors may begin to feel for a particular director; appropriately enough, then, many in the cast of this film had worked with Resnais on several prior occasions.
actor, death, play [drama]