- 27 May 19
Patchy reflection on loss and loneliness.
Psychologists have identified a form of loss called ambiguous loss; loss that comes without resolution or closure, like when a loved one disappears and it’s unclear if they are still alive. It has been shown to be more emotionally devastating and traumatic than definitive loss, as the ambiguity keeps those left behind in a state of emotional purgatory. They are unable to move beyond the loss, and stuck in a torturous state of suspended grief.
This sense of prolonged suffering lies at the heart of Memoir Of War. Emmanuel Finkiel adapts Marguerite Duras’ 1985 autobiographical book, itself based on her diaries of occupied France in World War II.
Mélanie Thierry plays the young writer, who is desperately trying to hold onto her own identity as she awaits a reunion with her husband that may never happen. A resistance fighter, he was sent to a German labour camp, and Marguerite doesn’t know if he has survived. It’s her burning need for information that causes her to strike up a relationship with a French intelligence officer, Pierre (Benoit Magimel), even though he’s collaborating with the Germans. She hopes his attention will eventually lead to information on her husband’s whereabouts, but her peers and colleagues remain unconvinced by her motivations, and she soon starts losing clarity herself.
Duras’ writing played with memory and subjectivity, but despite a few flimsy evocations of this through voiceover, an excessive use of mirror shots, and an image of Marguerite watching herself, the film feels overly genteel and conventional. An overly simple retelling of a complex story.