Last Year In Marienbad on 45 RPM
Cette voix parle de façon continue, mais, bien que la musique ait cessé tout à fait, on ne comprend pas encore les paroles (ou on les comprends en tout cas très mal) à cause d’une forte réverbération ou quelque effet du même genre (deux bandes sonores identiques décalées se rejoignant progressivement jusqu’à devenir une voix normale). – Alain Robbe-Grillet dans L’année dernière à Marienbad (ciné-roman)
Last Year in Marienbad is a masterpiece born out of the inevitable encounter between French cinema and le nouveau roman. The film was released in 1961 and soon found its way into the pantheon of modern classics. Not surprisingly, much has been written about the Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet collaboration but very little has been said concerning the soundtrack to the film.
Resnais and Robbe-Grillet were both deeply interested in music and sound-image relationships. Together, they had agreed to change the working title of the film from Last Year to Last Year in Marienbad (L’Année dernière to L’Année dernière à Marienbad). They felt that the latter had more rhythm and, therefore, greater musical qualities. But Marienbad was also the site where the two fantastic minds disagreed about music.
The process of giving cinematic form to Robbe-Grillet’s script had been a fairly smooth one and the renowned writer recognized that, in the end, the score was the only place where Resnais really departed from what was envisioned. Robbe-Grillet had hoped for a “musique concrète” approach but Resnais opted instead for an organ-based series of disquieting sonic vignettes.
Robbe-Grillet had planned a “partition sonore” based on the sounds one usually heard in ancient hotels and mansions (“les bruits qu’on entend dans les vieux hôtels démodés, comme le pas des domestiques qui sonnent dans les couloirs, les portes d’ascenseurs métalliques à coulisse accordéon à la sonorité extraordinaire, qui peut être très belle”).
“I am very much aware of the fact that the score I envisioned would have been so irritating that people would have had to leave the room,” Robbe-Grillet remarked in a series of interviews with France Culture in 2003.
And so Resnais called upon Delphine Seyrig’s brother for the soundtrack to Last Year in Marienbad. Francis Seyrig’s career as a composer seems to have been short-lived. Not much information is available concerning his musical output but he was mostly active as a soundtrack composer during the sixties. During the first half of that decade, Seyrig composed music for Last Year in Marienbad (his sister plays one of the two main protagonists), Le procès de Jeanne D’Arc (a 1962 film by Bresson), as well as Marie Soleil (a film directed by Antoine Bourseiller, who also acted in Varda’s Cleo de 5 à 7 and Resnais’ La Guerre est Finie).
I first saw Last Year in Marienbad at the Montreal Cinémathèque nearly ten years ago. I remember listening submissively to the rhythm with which the music and dialogues alternated and combined to further disorient and engage those of us sitting in front of the screen. Robbe-Grillet might have felt like Resnais was trying to please audiences, but there were still people at the turn of the millennium willing to complain about the unsettling sound of Seyrig’s “pseudo-dodécaphonique” organ sound.
The material below was released on 7” vinyl by Philips in the early 1960s. Aside from “La valse de Marienbad” which is now available on Alain Resnais: Portrait musical, the soundtrack for Last Year in Marienbad has been unavailable for more than four decades.
La musique de L’ANNÉE DERNIÈRE À MARIENBAD est bien entendu fonctionelle (ce qui n’exclue pas le lyrisme). Sa fonction est de renforcer le perpétuel balancement entre le réel et l’imaginaire qui caractérise cette histoire d’amour.
Cette musique veut donc se confondre au décor, retrouver l’ambiguïté des sentiments des personnages, accentuer les doutes que l’on peut éprouver sur la réalité du déroulement de l’action.
C’est pourquoi elle utilise des formes musicales tantôt archaïques tantôt contemporaines et que telle séquence qui commence dans un style finit volontairement dans un autre. – Alain Resnais (extrait du verso de pochette de la bande originale du film)
Category: 2009-2010 Archives