Alain Resnais Andrew Sarris - Essay

Andrew Sarris

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In La Guerre est finie, we] are no longer concerned with the pretentious counterpoint of Love and the Bomb, Past and Present, Illusion and Reality, Society and the Individual, etc. We are obsessed instead with the doubts of Diego, the fears of Diego, the hopes of Diego, the instincts of Diego, even the fantasies of Diego….

For Resnais, it is enough to celebrate remembrance and mourn forgetfulness as fragments of personality and politics disintegrate in the void of time…. Cinema, like life, is a process of creating memories for the future. Resnais has always drawn on the past without paying for the future. His cinema has been hauntingly beautiful if dramatically improvident in its ghostliness. His characters have been paralyzed by the sheer pastness of their sensibilities…. Diego has become a hero of prudence and inaction. He has shown what it is to be a man without the obvious flourishes of virility so fashionable today. (Even the stately explicitness of the love-making is a measure of the hero's stature). To be a man, it is above all necessary to be patient as one's life dribbles away on the back streets, blind alleys and dead ends of political impotence. The at times agonizing slowness of La Guerre est finie achieves the pathos of patience by expressing a devotion to detail common to both Diego and Resnais….

As for what the film actually "says," Jorge Semprun's script is explicit enough for the least sophisticated audiences. The meaning is in the title. The War Is Over, and Resnais, unlike Zinnemann in the grotesquely unfeeling Behold a Pale Horse, makes no attempt to reconstruct the agonies of antiquity with old newsreels. The ultimate tragedy of The Spanish Civil War is that all its participants are either dead or 30 years older. Spain still exists as a geographical entity, but it has been repopulated with an indifferent generation.

Andrew Sarris, "Ode to the Old Left," in Cahiers du Cinema in English (copyright 1967 by Cahiers Publishing Company), No. 8, February, 1967, p. 67.