The Marquise of O (1976)


The Marquise of O Storyline

During the attack on an Italian town by Russian forces, the Marquise of O., the daughter of the colonel in charge of the defence, is attacked by a group of Russian soldiers. A Russian Count comes to her rescue, and falls in love with her. While he is away, she discovers that she is pregnant, though she cannot explain how that happened. Her father repudiates her, and she has to reject the Count while trying to find out who the father of her child is.

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The Marquise of O Movie Reviews

Really overrated period piece

“Die Marquise von O…” or “The Marquise of O” is a co-production between West Germany and France from 1976, so this one has its 40th anniversary this year. The cast is almost exclusively German, but the writer and director is Éric Rohmer which explains the French involvement. Rohmer was in his 50s at that point and already an Oscar nominee. His 100-minute movie here was based on a Heinrich von Kleist story and is certainly among the writer’s most known adaptations in film. I will not mention all the actors in here in detail as you can see them in the cast list, but it can be said that lead actress Edith Clever who plays the title character for a German Film Award for her performance here and so did her male co-lead Bruno Ganz for whom it was the big breakthrough as an actor and he worked with Herzog, Wenders and many other prestigious filmmakers in the years to come. This movie here received lots of awards attention, probably also because German period pieces are really nothing you get to see that frequently.

Most of this praise and awards recognition (also like the BAFTA win) had to do with the technical side of the film and also the visual side and I would agree that costumes, sets and cinematography are those areas where the film works the best. Or I could also say “only areas where it works” as I personally was not impressed at all by the viewing. Clever was not really memorable as the main character and being a big Ganz fan, I was disappointed by how he went over-the-top with his performance on some occasion. The costumes gave him enough showiness already and I hoped for more quiet subtlety. Also I felt that Rohmer’s story here just wasn’t enough for 100 minutes and that he stretched the few crucial plot points )pregnancy, relationship between the two protagonists) until they became really uninteresting to watch from the perspective of the audience. I am very much baffled by this film’s success. I cannot deny it. I have not seen (enough) other stuff by Rohmer, which is why I am still undecided if the maker is the problem here or just the subject. But I do know for sure that I cannot recommend the watch here. Thumbs down from me and admittedly I will say that period pieces have never been my favorite genre of film, but still there are more than just a few that I consider superior to this one. Watch something else instead.

it remained faithful to the book

I originally read Heinrich von Kleist’s “Die Marquise von O…” in a German class. Renting the movie, I naturally had to wonder whether or not they would stay faithful to the novel. They did. This story of an 18th century marquise (Edith Clever) who inexplicably becomes pregnant has surprises at every corner. In case you don’t know the whole story, I won’t spoil it for you, but you will be surprised at what happens. Strong performances by Clever and Bruno Ganz as The Count carry the movie, as does the perfect direction from Eric Rohmer.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about that “O…”, it’s deliberately incomplete, as are some other names in the story.

Stupendously poetic and flawless

What can I say about Rohmer? the guy’s a cinematic genius. Who else can capture so much reality out of situations that in most directors’ hands would be nothing but facile theatricality that exhausts itself in one viewing? Rohmer’s best films stand up to endless viewings, in fact, they’re so detailed and well thought out, you don’t get anything significant out of them until you’ve watched them many times. The Marquise of O is definitely one of his best. It’s his only film that doesn’t deal with the love problems of his contemporary French bourgeoisie–his only ‘period’ film made in the original German language of the book by Heinrich von Kleist it was based on. It is a deceptively simple looking work of pure art. Nuance upon nuance comes pouring forth from every actor as they give the subtlest and greatest performances of their lives under Rohmer’s direction. Nothing fancy here on the surface, just a totally authentic look that seems to have stepped right off Goethe’s time, as if Rohmer actually went back in time to the 18th century and shot himself a documentary. The film is, among many other things, a very strong criticism of the Christian mores of the period and how easily they can turn from being life-affirming and productively disciplinarian to prejudice and farcical cruelty.