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3 Interpretations of Last Year at Marienbad

20 June 2012 | Cinema Masterpieces | by David Zou


I love films that offers more than one way of understanding it.Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad did the exact thing to me,the ambiguity of time and space,the intentional still performance from the actors,all provide me some kind of uncertainty of the story and the characters.Renair said it is a film you should sense,not try to comprehend,but a film geek like me still couldn’t help taking some guesses here.

Interpretation 1:

Think about Kubrick’s The Shining,can you find any similarities between it and this film? Yes,both film takes place in a gigantic haunting house,and both are about repetitions.You can argue that X,just like Jack,is a ghost,and possesses the ability of telepath.The story he told A was trying to override the memory of what happened to her last year,to persuade her to love him.

Interpretation 2:

If you remember the plot well,the man said he took a picture of the woman when they met last year,and then we saw a scene where the woman opened the draw in her room,and there were many same photos of her.It does not make sense that the man took all these pictures at the same time, so there is a possibility that the man already tried his scheme many times,maybe every once a year,but kept failing until this time in the film.

Interpretation 3:

This is something you did not notice unless you watched every scene very carefully,there was a play took place in the palace,the story of it had something to do with sexual violence even raping indication.So we can guess that the reason A denied the past was not she couldn’t remember anything,but had something to do with her own suffering,maybe a raping attempt by X last year.

No matter they are right or wrong,this film opens a window to all kinds of interpretations,what’s yours?





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  • I’ve seen the film twice so far. I think it’s a film about memory or a woman refusing to remember what happened. It’s a truly beautiful film.

    BTW, have you seen the video for Blur’s “To the End”? It’s a great tribute to the film itself.

    • Yeah,generally it’s what you said,but we could have some extensive understanding of it,like what I wrote in the post.The B&W cinematography is remarkable indeed.

      No,I have not seen the video,definitely need to check it out,thanks!!

  • I was always intrigued by the notion that perhaps X was crazy and was attempting to use psychology to implant false memories in A’s mind. But the great thing about this movie is that no matter how many times you watch it and how elaborate your theories about it are, you’ll never feel 100% confident that you’re right.

    • Exactly,it is one of the biggest mystery in cinema history.I also love the first interpretation,left banks like sci-fi films!!

  • Actually my favorite older film discovered in 2012. Interpretation 2 reminds me of Source Code (2011) or 1993’s Groundhog Day ( :

    For me, it’s about a married temptress enjoying the attention of another man, she doesn’t reject him entirely and plays along.
    Maybe the pleasure is not in finding a solution, but in playing the game ( ;

    • Yeah,Groundhog Day is the movie,a more fun version though.

      Exactly,I was wondering if there is any meaning that the game appears several times.

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  • jkmngld

    There are those that believe that LYaM is based on the novel “The Invention of Morel” by Adolfo Bioy Casares ( an associate of Borges ). It is technology fiction ( to avoid the expression science fiction ). It is not hard to find, if you can find it maybe give it a read and see if it impacts your opinion of the film.