Alain Resnais Richard Schickel - Essay

Richard Schickel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

La Guerre Est Finie is an exciting movie on two counts. It is, I think, the most successful representation on film we have had so far of the archetypal political drama of our time, in which a man's psychological need to make ideological commitments wars with the disillusionment such commitments must inevitably bring. It is also the first truly well proportioned—and therefore the first truly satisfying—feature we have had from director Alain Resnais….

[In] La Guerre Est Finie, story, style and symbols are much more carefully balanced [than in Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad]. Jorge Semprun's script is a model of intelligent character and thematic development, and Resnais, faced with the challenge of exploring a plot that is densely packed instead of wide-ranging, responds by digging deeply and carefully into his material. The result is an energetic, ironic and mature exploration of the sensibility of an aging revolutionary in an aging century. (p. 95)

La Guerre Est Finie is, in effect, a Man's Fate for the 1960s—a muted, thoughtful, truthful film about the way time betrays all revolutions and about the absurd, desperate, ennobling expedients men must take in order to escape the destruction of the self that is so often the by-product of the betrayal. The Franco government has objected to the film for obvious reasons, but in fact it quite transcends specific political realities and is a judiciously composed metaphor that says something essential about the human condition—not merely the Spanish one. This is a very important film, yet also a graceful and stylish one. (p. 97)

Richard Schickel, "La Guerre est finie" (originally published in Life, Vol. 62, No. 10, March 10, 1967), in his Second Sight: Notes on Some Movies, 1965–70 (copyright © 1972 by, Richard Schickel; reprinted by permission of Simon and Schuster, a Division of Gulf & Western Corporation), Simon and Schuster, 1972, pp. 95-7.