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by Thomas Beltzer
Thomas Beltzer is Assistant Prof. of English, Lane College, Jackson, TN, and has published several reviews in the Gulf Coast Historical Review and an essay on Babette's Feast in Critique. His first book, Antojitos, was published earlier this year.
"My soul has not yet passed to the image..." Adolfo Bioy Casares On the making of novels into films, there are two general schools of thought. Some feel that the film should be faithful to the original and are dismayed when it deviates significantly. Like sophomore literature students, they want the movie to be a faithful crib of the book. Most films, both art and popular, based on prior texts humbly meet this demand - Ragtime, The Shining, Diary of a Country Priest and any of the John Grisham films are just a few examples. Some films even promise a special allegiance by making the author's name a part of the title such as Mary Shelly's Frankenstein or Bram Stoker's Dracula (1). Of course, they are never
and they enjoy thinking about the differences another artist brings to the material. At a baroque resort. both the loyalists and the divergents would be baffled by the mysterious case of Last Year at Marienbad (L'Année Dernière à Marienbad.completely faithful as the loyalist bitterly complain. The characters move like somnambulists through a hermetically sealed world that seems totally surreal. an unnamed man "X" tries to convince an unnamed woman "A" that they had an affair last year and agreed to meet at the resort and leave her current paramour "M". Solaris and Apocalypse Now are all good examples of the divergent approach. . The intrinsic differences between the two mediums makes duplication impossible. Blade Runner. the film is formally severe and utterly modernist. yet no credit is given. They are all caught up in a surreal loop of disjointed time. Alain Resnais. don't mind if the film deviates significantly or even radically from the original text. Others. either in the film or the published screenplay. one gets the feeling that Alain Robbe-Grillet is striving to remain faithful to some unnamed rubric whose invisible influence shapes every move his characters make. a zone that may not even be of this world. whether novel or play or short story. 'the divergents' we'll call them. but what he tells her has the power to create a past for her and to blend it into her present. She doesn't remember him at all. Hailed as a triumph of the modernist aesthetic. Reading the obsessively thorough screenplay. However. 1961). Its characters are nameless and locked in a zone of their own. One senses that the laborious screenplay is based on some prior text.
science fiction film. The Argentinean masterpiece is about a fugitive. Morel. Dust jackets of novels are occasionally mistaken. hiding out alone on a deserted island who one day awakens to discover that the island is miraculously filled with anachronistically dressed people "who dance. in fact. perhaps. Last Year at Marienbad buries its association with its "low brow" science fiction text.The Invention of Morel. Jorge Luis Borges' colleague of the Fantastic. . thus gruesomely confirming the native fear of being photographed and also. warning of the dangers of art holding up a mirror to nature. but I was able to confirm the information by consulting the Encyclopedia Britannica which states that "The novel formed the basis for Alain Robbe-Grillet's film script for Last Year at Marienbad". I discovered the kinship by accident on the dust jacket of Casares' A Plan for Escape. they are relatives all the same. There is. a novella written twenty-one years earlier by Adolfo Bioy Casares. as if this were a summer resort like Los Teques or Marienbad" (11). stroll up and down.Last Year at Marienbad presents itself as a pristine work of high modern art. It turns out that Morel's invention is a diabolical holographic recording device that captures all of the senses in three dimensions. which also bears an interesting affinity with Last Year at Marienbad. It is diabolical because it destroys its subject in the recording process. and swim in the pool. a novel written in the early 1940's. rotting the skin and flesh off of its bones. a text behind the film . nevertheless. The high modernist masterpiece is "outed" as a postmodern.
a Borgean labyrinth of a library. an Argentinean film that flies its flag of loyalty to Casares high through an explicit use of allusion (2). her husband. Latino source. Last Year at Marienbad does more than secretly allude to The Invention of Morel. the woman. another related text that will serve as a useful contrast in our discussion of remakes and intertextualiy is Man Facing Southeast. the skeptical psychiatrist. alluding to the devilish pact art inevitably makes with nature. patient number thirty-three at a mental hospital. The principal female figure in Morel is Faustine. Borges points out in his prologue to the novella that "the title alludes filially to another island inventor. Dennis. "X" offers her a . Casares claims that Faustine was inspired by the silent screen star. are cycling endlessly in a film that never ends. and the work is diminished as a result. though allusions abound in what turns out to be a veritable tangle of texts. Understanding that "A" and "M". Louise Brooks.Though it is cloaked in formal solipsism. and "M". In order to comprehend him. Unlike Marienbad. They even refuse subtle allusion. Rantes. Subiela (director of the film) is proud to be associated with Casares and he pays suitable tribute to his inspiration whereas Robbe-Grillet and Resnais arrogantly disassociate their work from the sci-fi. and perhaps "X". in Marienbad are all holographs would enrich our enjoyment of an otherwise incomprehensible film. Interestingly. Moreau" (7). reads a passage from Morel in which the holo-recorder/projector is discussed (3). As a fellow Argentine. explains that he is a holographic being from outer space. "A".
by keeping itself textually pure. The Truman Show and the ongoing holo-deck of the various neo-Star Treks just to name a few. Without Morel. The Thirteenth Floor. admittedly. perhaps the first. false reality and false people have become a global obsession (4). Beginning as a mere trickle with The Purple Rose of Cairo and The Last Action Hero. different work. So why do Robbe-Grille and Resnais hide the fact that Marienbad is a divergent film version of Morel? Is it because they are Eurocentrics who think art should have nothing to do with the genre of science fiction/horror even though. but he has at least achieved some self-awareness of what they all are. he has edited the film to his own liking and inserted himself as a character. Maybe like the nameless narrator of Morel. It becomes an early false reality film. knowing about the relationship between the two enriches Marienbad's meditation on the relationship between art and nature. we now have a flood of these ontological vertigo films . it is in desperate . As a last dying gasp of modernism. with the intertextual juxtaposition of the two. Though Marienbad is substantially different from Morel. it becomes another. The Matrix.way to freedom. Marienbad is mostly an exercise in formalism. he is able to alter the scenarios through the power of suggestion. remains a shrine to modernism. however. Dark City. Maybe he is also a holograph and none of them can leave the resort. Though he also seems strangely caught in their world. In our digital times where CGI billboards pop up in Times Square. Existenz. Morel is certainly more literary than an example of genre fiction? Mostly though.Total Recall. Marienbad.
painting has this .the illusion once dispensed with. their voices intentionally blended. Marienbad can go on to have an independent artistic life of its own. The essential nature and meaning of the film is utterly dependent on its hidden relationship with Morel. However the film does provide clues that "A". dual attitude regarding the relationship of art to life. "M" and "X" are simulacrum and not real people.sudden changes in chronology signaled only by the placement of characters and their costume changes. we suspect that "X" and "A" are sculptures themselves. Then there are the many time dysfunctions . Marienbad reveals in and of itself an ambivalent. Without The Invention of Morel. Marienbad is merely surreal art for art's sake. so its formalistic elitism is false. Spring and All: . All of the paintings in the hotel are mimetic of the resort itself. The effect of all these changes is mostly irrelevant because nothing ever really changes at the resort.denial regarding its true intertextual nature. Nevertheless. has very little in common with Morel. The play at the beginning of the film slavishly foretells the fates of the protagonists. the film itself presents itself as a work of art that is in agreement with the modernist credo expressed well by poet William Carlos Williams in his landmark 1923 collection of poetry. As they discuss the sculptures in the garden. and "X"'s endless monologue is spoken by both the play actor and "X". It. and this is the beautiful irony of intertextuality. On the one hand. once its indebtedness is acknowledged. after all.
its nameless characters and hermetically-sealed set. it is a study of the separate reality of its own existence. though the film presents itself as non-representational. Because the action of the film comes after the play. Though architecturally beautiful. the world ." they must be real. On the other hand. the characters in the theatrical performance that opens the film represent the characters of the film itself. eschewing the conventions of realism as being false illusion. seem unaware of the mimetic nature of their activities. Even their body language is nearly as formal and architectural as the characters in the play. (204) Marienbad dwells on the "separate existence" of its characters. Marienbad says by its construction that art is a reality added to reality and not a copy of reality. within itself it presents a story of artifice holding a mirror up to nature and vice versa (not only in the play but in the card game and the various paintings and sculptures around the resort). not "realism" but reality itself. Cinematically. but of separate existence. By its own temporal discontinuity.problem before it: to replace not the forms but the reality of experience with its own. "A" and "X" seem to be imitating the play rather than the other way around. within the holographic reality.It is not a matter of "representation" much may be represented actually. however. Play and film exist in a Möbius-style feedback loop. "X" and "A". Thus. however. now works of art cannot be left in this category of France's "lie. and it is impossible to determine which imitates which. it demands that we accept it as reality itself rather than as a faithful and ultimately illusory representation of reality.
Casares himself is known to most well read North Americans only as a fictional character in "Tlön. in which the narrator and Casares discover volume eleven of an encyclopedia of a nonexistent country. Poor Casares. allegedly written by schoolteacher. Orbis Tertius. Borges and Casares are more progressive than Robbe-Grillet and Resnais in their comfort with intertextuality. their play was always guided by a strict conservative logic of their own. but an anti-Semite who is ridiculed by the jailbird detective throughout the interlocking six stories. H. chaotic and absurd by the intentional design of its makers. Bustos Domecq. Nevertheless. and play they did. Miss Adelma Badoglio. Early in their careers they wrote a brilliant book of detective stories called Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi. . so neither should art. A false biographical outline of Dr. Honorio Bustos Domecq was attached. but I believe they are extremely traditional in their view of false realities and false people. In speaking of Casares we must speak of Borges as well. I believe this in spite of their elegant and advanced ontological play. It seems they have held a mirror up to nature after all. and published it under the pen name. Uqbar. For them the world does not make sense. Not only was he snubbed by our French filmmakers. he was fated to live and die (b. Robbe-Grillet and Resnais are comfortable in the chaos of the ahistorical.of Marienbad is pure nonsense." a story by Borges. A flowery forward is provided by Gervasio Montenegro who later turns out to be a fictional character in one of the stories and not just any fictional character.
as Borges himself once said. "Pierre Menard. More like Philip K. 1999) in the shadow of his more famous colleague. nevertheless. Casares does not deserve his marginalization. Author of the Quixote. 1914 . Borges and Casares are confident that "all pages. and much of his fiction plays with the illusory nature of the phenomenal world as taught by those philosophers. However. (but with a much better grasp of literary prose) his favorite narrator is desperate and paranoid and on the verge of a mental breakdown. Borges was deeply influenced by Schopenhauer.d.of incomprehension" (94).perhaps the worse form . It is truly a mystery to me (and a Borgean irony as well) why Borges was blessed by the gods of canonicity and Casares was not.no one can read the same book twice. Casares gives us excellent psychological characterizations (something lacking in Borges' work) and social/political involvement. in one of his most brilliant stories on the subject of simulacrum and intertextuality. "Fame is a form ." an amusing tale that illustrates the old Heraclitus dictum transmuted to literature . all words. He said this.Sept. for he gives us everything Borges gives us and more. 15. ontological meditations. as it happens. Along with the Borgean logical puzzles and metaphysical. His typical narrator is not detached and meticulous as in Borges. predicate the universe" (345) and not the other way around. Though most of his fiction is out of print in English. Dick. Berkley and Hume by way of his father's library. March 8. They have faith in the essential solidity of the phenomenal . The strangeness is not just in the observed but in the observer.
It harks back to the timeless theme of star-crossed lovers. at least partially. The first text behind Morel is the collective film work of Louise Brooks. Here is the relevant exchange between Sergio Wolf and Casares in a July 1995 interview: Question: You said that the inspiration for La invención de Morel came to you. This is what happens in Borges' "Tlön. Uqbar. and their false realities work on the theory of Aristotelian displacement and a Catholic transubstantiation of life by art." "Pierre Menard." In The Invention of Morel. Perhaps. Author of the Quixote" and "The Mirror and the Mask. What happened with you and Louise Brooks? Adolfo Bioy Casares: I was deeply in love with her. in other words. It implies. the holographic machine destroys everything it records. because she disappeared quickly. Orbis Tertius. metaphorically. on internal evidences alone.an explanation of the unexplainable which is perhaps one of the chief pleasures of reading. (an ancient religious theme) that the price of immortality is always death. the situation is horrifying with many interesting philosophical implications. it provides the satisfaction that only fiction can provide .world. she made a film with Pabst. Formalistically. the story represents the rejection of realistic representation as a value and goal of art. from the vanishing of Louise Brooks from the movies. and then I didn't like her so much as when she . And of course. I didn't have any luck. She went to Europe.
in Louise Brooks) Knowing that Morel is in part a story about a real person's love for a screen presence changes the nature of the text and our relationship to it. We know we matter less as real brings than the fictional beings before us. (qt. I am out of reach. who was so close to me. she vanished too early from the movies. despite our materiality and the ephemeral flickering of illusion before us. Casares captures these feelings beautifully: Now I understand why novelists write about ghosts that weep and wail.. I thought. but her Louise Brooks-like presence is so much larger than life that the living narrator concludes that he must be dead. However.. but I am dead. The dead remain in the midst of the living. And then. lesser beings in the presence of screen grandeur. I was horrified that Faustine. (47) Remember.was in Hollywood. In the dark of the theater all of our wishes are fulfilled. actually might be on another planet. . Question: Could she be seen as one of the characters in La invención de Morel? Adolfo Bioy Casares: Yes. there in the dark we feel ourselves to be mere ghosts. she would be Faustine. its bestowal of seeming immortality on its stars and the dialectic of our own fulfillment and loss. The novella becomes a meditation on our relationship with the art of cinema. Faustine is holographic.
he concludes his diary: My soul has not yet passed to the image. Casares is not comfortable with putting art first and demanding that life follow. parodies of both human and animal. splicing himself into the holographic movie in hopes of living eternally with Faustine. (90) . I would have died. In contrast to Robbe-Grillet. with the addition of the Brooks text. This shared experience with the narrator makes the Morel text feel less foreign to us. the narrator chooses to submit himself to Morel's deadly machine. Dr. Moreau does something else to the novella. Moreau attempts to create a higher being. I (perhaps) would no longer see Faustine. but merely creates sad perversities. At the end of the novel. we become "simpatico" with the narrator and understand his final immolation when he submits himself to Morel's machine. and would be with her in a vision that no one can ever destroy. Pathetically. Intertextually. a confusion we now all live with on a daily basis. but our relationship with Casares' novella is also changed by the Brooks/Faustine paring. How many young people empty themselves to become one with their screen idol? The relationship with Morel to The Island of Dr. Morel becomes a dire warning of the vivi-sectional splicing of the artificial and the real. if it had. in his dialectic with Well's mad scientist. His tale tries to tell us that it is not wise to confuse the artificial and the real. Many of us have been in love with the artificial constructs of popular culture. Morel becomes. a violator of nature through his hubris.Not only does the nature of the text itself change. that it is not wise to prefer artifice over nature.
Standing alone. This basic feeling with which many of us live daily is expressed in the increasing catalogue of ontological vertigo films of which Last Year at Marienbad may be the first in line because of its now-revealed relationship with The Invention of Morel. I once had a postmodern intertextual moment at a drugstore bookrack when I picked up a paperback with the following title: Bram Stoker's .if you go to the movies too often." A young man off-road cycling with a friend of mine. it gives us a warning . "I've always wanted to visit Memphis. an adult professional man told me enthusiastically. For example. The Invention of Morel. but when considered with its prior texts of Louise Brooks and Dr. is a brilliantly conceived and executed horror tale. you could become a nameless character wandering forever in the present tense. artificial images come before reality.Like the narrator. for many of us now. I want to tour the places where John Grisham's movies were made. you may never come back. October 2000 Endnotes: 1. alive or dead one cannot be sure. upon hearing that I was from Memphis. Moreau. © Thomas Beltzer." Reality is not what it used to be or rather our relationship to it has become more tenuous. "This is almost as good as Nintendo. paused at the top of a ridge to catch his breath and say. Your own life may become a fiction.
5716. 4. 1988 Dust-Jacket Biography from A Plan For Escape by Adolfo Bioy Casares. translated by Suzanne Jill Levine. Jorge Luis.britannica.Dracula: A Novelization Based on the Original Screenplay. Despite his talent as a filmmaker. I suspect that the postmodern obsession with false realities and people have something to do with intertextuality and the belief that the world is one of these texts. Works Cited: Bioy-Casares.html 5/15/00 Borges. Prologue. I am hoping to understand better the phenomena of intertextually-created reality. By looking at early examples of both. 1975 . translated by Ruth L. Simms. Beatriz Dick is. 2. 1964 "Bioy Casares. a double allusion to Dante and Philip K Dick. Simms.43221. I think. The Invention of Morel and Other Stories (from La Trama Celeste). Adolfo. Eliseo Subiela is not big on subtlety. The Invention of Morel and Other Stories (from La Trama Celeste).com/bcom/eb/article/idxref/2/0. New York: Penguin. translated by Ruth L.Collected Fictions. Rantes' fellow holograph.P.C. Dutton. Austin: University of Texas Press.C. translated by Andrew Hurley. Adolfo". Austin: University of Texas Press. 3. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1964 ---.00. http://www. New York: E.
"Man Facing Southeast: a Review" http://www. New York: New Directions. 1962 Williams.Walton Litz & Christopher MacGowan. Vol. 1909-1939. The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams. 1986 contents about us great directors links archive cteq annotations search top tens .prairienet.Jahiel. Last Year at Marienbad. Edwin. Alain. William Carlos.html 5/15/00 The Louise Brooks Society. I.com/tributes/casares.pandorasbox. edited by A. New York: Grove Press.html 7/13/96 Robbe-Grillet. translated by Richard Howard. http://www.org/ejahiel/manfacin.
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