Eric Rohmer’s intricate send-up of aristocratic marriage values
One of the shining lights of the French New Wave, Eric Rohmer’s The Marquise of O… came after his wildly successful series, Six Moral Tales. An adaptation of German Heinrich von Kleist’s novella, it details an Italian Marquise having to deal with a pregnancy she cannot explain and an infatuated Russian Count pursuing her hand in marriage. It’s a stunning, delicate portrait of aristocratic values from its time, elegantly crafted by a master director in Rohmer at the height of his powers. While it doesn’t have the sprawling structure of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, released a year before Rohmer’s film, the period piece feels influenced by Kubrick’s film in tone and style.
Eric Rohmer’s 1976 film is a masterpiece of wit and delightful irony. Precise in tone and lavishly produced with excellent costume design, its razor-sharp dialogue is dripping with satire and ironic barbs. Set in 1799, a Russian Count played by Bruno Ganz saves an Italian noble lady called the Marquise from being ravished by Russian soldiers in the conflict between Russia and Italy. Soon after the war ends, he arrives desperate to marry the Marquise of O despite barely knowing the lady. He insists they marry immediately, before he is called away by his duties.
One could call it a comedy of manners as the narrative evolves into a struggle between the Count and the Marquise over a possible marriage. Her parents don’t know what to think about this proposal. Rohmer’s guiding hand turns it from being a farce in lesser hands to an intelligent film sparkling with crafted precision.
Edith Clever is delightful as the Marquise, a widowed aristocrat living with her upper crust parents. The Marquise discovers she is pregnant, the cause of much consternation with her parents. They can’t tolerate their unwed daughter giving birth in their house and bringing dishonor to the entire family. The Marquise vows she hasn’t slept with a man since her husband has passed away and asks a midwife in a dryly funny moment if virgin birth is possible. The midwife answers it has only occurred with one woman, the Virgin Mary.
The dashing, gallant Count repeatedly begs the Marquise for her hand in marriage, even after he learns of her situation. Rohmer’s film dissects the twisted marriage values of the aristocracy from this period, revealing how love often had little to do with their marriages.
This superb German-language adaptation is fantastic satire…
This superb German-language adaptation is fantastic satire…
The Marquise of O… is a film that carefully constructs its characters in living detail. The ironies abound in the Count’s personal story, drawing in the viewer. Why is this seemingly perfect gentleman throwing his respectable life away to pursue a woman that claims she has no idea how she became pregnant? His relentless determination in this pursuit is almost admirable in the beginning. All of his problems, and possibly her problems, would be immediately solved if the Marquise would simply consent to this marriage. In a time when marriage among the aristocracy was little more than a business transaction meant to bolster land and fortune, the Marquise’s insistence on getting to know the Count before marriage ends in terrible irony.
Many consider The Marquise of O… one of Rohmer’s finest films, if not his best work. This superb German-language adaptation is fantastic satire, working on several different levels. Elegantly crafted by one of the great directors of the Twentieth Century, Rohmer brings all his considerable talents to bear in this wonderful period piece.
Film Movement Classics give The Marquise of O… a fantastic, faithful Blu-ray presentation. The film-like transfer arrives in impressive quality from strong film elements. Given the evident level of fine detail and minimal processing, the 1080P video resembles a newish 2K scan from the camera negative. Featuring the tasteful cinematography of Nestor Almendros, it is masterfully composed in a stately 4:3 aspect ratio preserving its intended display. This is sharp cinematography for its era rich in contrast and a nice treat to see on a big display with its lavish costume design.
The main feature runs over 102 minutes on a BD-50. The AVC video encode averages 32 Mbps, perfectly capturing the fine grain structure and shadow delineation in transparent fashion. High-frequency detail is abundant in this nicely filmed movie, shot slightly softer than modern period movies but sharper than the films of its own era. The light, organic grain reminds us this is vintage film shot to perfection.
The transfer keeps an appropriate color grading for the “romantic” period drama, rich in color saturation and proper flesh-tones. A trace of edge enhancement leaves ringing in a handful of shots. The film elements are in strong, unblemished condition. They retain proper color tonality and hold up remarkably well until a curious drop in quality during the final scene, which comes out darker and softer in detail. It’s a small problem in what is otherwise a magnificent Blu-ray presentation.
Film Movement Classics has taken Rohmer’s classic film and made it worth owning on Blu-ray by bringing out its natural fidelity and beauty.
The original mono audio comes in a clean-sounding German 2.0 PCM soundtrack. The dialogue-driven drama relies on its mannered lines spoken in perfect clarity, which this audio delivers. A light musical prelude during the opening credits are the extent of its musical highlights, The Marquise of O… is much more concerned with the effect of its words.
The German-language film comes with optional English subtitles. They display in a white font. A series of intertitle cards play a role in the narrative, also perfectly translated by the subtitles.
Like many other niche distributors on Blu-ray, Film Movement Classics has shifted to the clear Blu-ray case for this release and all others. Included is a finely produced booklet with stills from the movie and a new essay by film critic David Thomson. The handsome booklet is a refreshing throwback in this day of shrunken Blu-ray sets. Both interviews are short but feature interesting comments. Some international viewers will be pleased to know this disc is completely region-free.
Archival Interview With Star Bruno Ganz (02:54 in SD) This French interview from decades ago has the actor telling us how this was his first filmed role, as he had been a stage actor.
Archival Interview With Director Eric Rohmer (02:07 in SD) The legendary French director talks about the film and where it places in his overall career to that point. He mentions working on adapting a novel as opposed to creating something new. Intelligent comments that show his true understanding of how films are put together.
The Marquise of O… 2015 Trailer (01:34 in HD)
The Marquise of O… Original Trailer (04:18 in SD)
Film Movement Trailers (All in HD) – Full Moon in Paris (01:21), Amour Fou (01:44), If You Don’t, I Will (01:55), Pillow Book (01:32), The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe (01:22)), Francesco (01:48)
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review as a screener copy that may not completely reflect the retail package. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.