(1970; L'eden et après, French) Another of writer/director Alain Robbe-Grillet's psycho-sexual dramas takes place in a labyrinth of seductive delusion: very trippy, a cinematically hallucinogenic (yet emotionally detached) experience. Things are not what they seem: everything in this film eventually will appear turned 90° from its original pose.
In the glass-and-steel Eden café, Violette (Catherine Jourdan) and her fellow university friends play games of torture: a girl gets trapped in the maze of mirrors while boys capture her, place her on a bench, and rip off her clothes; Russian roulette with a revolver and a die; poisoning but switching the glasses - all pretended and pretentious.
Images are ripped and stripped of feeling, reduced to raw essentials and assembled naked like a mathematical equation in three acts: academic, artistic, and actual (though not chronological).
The narrator, Violette, whose father died in Indo-China, is the niece of a deceased artist, whose last painting, entitled Blue Square #234, a souvenir hanging on her bedroom wall, has become valuable and a desirable object of her friends, who plot to steal it from her. "If this story bores you," announces a male student, "then you're heartless."
The serpent makes his entrance into academic paradise. A handsome stranger (Pierre Zimmer), returning from Africa, enters the café and orders red wine before attracting the attention of the students with a demonstration of his making matter into magic by miraculously healing a girl's hand after she repeatedly cuts herself by picking broken glass off the floor from bottles he'd smashed. When Violette volunteers to lick a powder of fear from his hand, she experiences violent visions, hallucinations of horror.
Afterward the stranger, who calls himself Duchemin (or maybe he's the Dutchman), directs the students in scenes of improvisation. In one of these enchanting enactments, he asks to have Violette's room key for a device. As they are leaving the café, Duchemin asks Violette to meet him on the waterfront.
Seduced, she goes to the factory beside the channel where she becomes lost along the intricate path among pipes and containers, barges and cranes, as if confused in a dream. She catches glimpses of her friends. References to Ophelia and Macbeth are spoken: drowning and murder. At the water's edge she finds Duchemin's body; from his pocket she removes a bloodied postcard.
In a panic Violette returns to the café, begging her friends (who insist they haven't been anywhere else) to help her with Duchemin; but the corpse is gone when she brings them to the location, some questioning her state of mind. Resurrection?
Her key and her uncle's painting are missing; the waiter Franz (not his real name, who "looks like a villain in a play") has disappeared from the café, but the new waiter directs her to the piano for her key. Has she had foretellings, fantasies, or repressed memories?
In the Eden cinema Violette is transported via a film of Tunisia into the North African locale of the postcard (sharing a similar geometry and coloring to the painting) of a blue-and-white dwelling; in the village she purchases a copy of the same postcard and begins searching for the house of which many look the same.
"I found what I didn't know I was looking for," Violette tells Sonia (Jarmila Kolenicová). Self-awareness leads into self-delusion, while reflection provides revelation. Is there salvation, reincarnation, or obliteration?
As in his 2006 film Gradiva, set in Morocco, Robbe-Grillet chains and cages naked young women, posing them in sado-masochistic settings. Violette finds Duchemin, now an artist with female models, before she's kidnapped, blindfolded, and tortured with scorpions in a cell, unable to answer demands of where the picture has been hidden.
Mirages in the burning desert, her silent twin comes to her rescue, reflections off the water, reversals of fortune as friends turn upon one another. As in a Shakespearean tragedy, corpses clutter the stage. The ending returns us to the beginning.
The director's wife Catherine Robbe-Grillet takes part in the film.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.