Marguerite Duras 1914–
French director, screenwriter, playwright, and author.
Duras began filmmaking after a successful career as a novelist and scriptwriter. Prior to making her own films, she was best known for her screenplay of Alain Resnais's Hiroshima mon amour. Duras's filmic technique is based on her literary style. Her films are characterized by long silences, dialogue which conveys inner emotions, and an abstract conception of time. Her abilities as a writer enable her to, in her own words, "understand the import, the power of a word."
Raised in Indochina, Duras emigrated to Paris at age seventeen, where she studied law and physical science. In 1941, she began writing novels, many of which have been filmed by other directors. Duras now prefers not to film her own literature, feeling that the audience is otherwise more concerned with the transition to the screen than with the film itself.
Détruire, dit-elle (Destroy, She Said) established her reputation as an "anti-art" artist. In this film, Duras creates a world of interchangeable personalities and reduces life to a vacuum. The characters's blandness is intentional; Duras encourages the audience to interpret the film in a variety of ways. Like her other works, India Song is cold, austere, and ambiguously symbolic. Its plot is minimal, developing instead an interior conflict that is felt rather than seen.
Perhaps Duras's most controversial work is Le camion (The Truck). While earlier works frustrate and alienate viewers because of their unusual structure, many critics feel that Le camion antagonizes the audience. Lacking a plot, the work is a description of a hypothetical film. When Le camion was shown at Cannes, the audience shouted insults which, several critics noted, was most likely the reaction Duras desired.
Duras's films are not intended as entertainment. They are meant to be mulled over scene by scene. While some critics admire her adeptness in transferring verbal narrative to the screen, others have labeled her work boring and pretentious. It is generally agreed, however, that the formal structure of her films makes initial enjoyment difficult, since her techniques are intentionally anti-cinematic. (See also CLC, Vols. 3, 6, 11, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.)