The Author-Function as Security Agent in Rohmer's Die Marquise von O...

by Mary Rhiel
The Author-Function as Security Agent in Rohmer's Die Marquise von O...
Mary Rhiel
The German Quarterly
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University of New Hampshire

The Author-Function as Security Agent in Rohmer's

Die Marquise von 0 .. .

When Eric Rohmer was asked tocomment on the role that the literary source played in his filming of Kleist's Die Marquise von

0 . . . , he stated: "Dem Kleistschen Text Wort fir Wort zu folgen, war das leitende Prinzip unserer Verfilmung. In diesem Fall zeigt es sich, dalj die Novelle, 'Die Marquise von 0 . . .' nicht nur das 'Sujet' fhr einen ein- einhalbstiindigen Film abgibt, sondern schon ein echtes 'Drehbuch' ist, auf das sich die Regiearbeit ohne Vermittlung einer sogenann- ten 'Bearbeitung' direkt stiitzen kann."' Roh- mer asserts further that he has found a liter- ary source so perfect in its narrative pres- entation that he can make a film "ohne vom Werk des Autors etwas wegzulassen oder ihm etwas hinzuz~~gen."~

Given Rohmer's numer- ous references to the primacy of the literary text and the author, I wish to investigate the discursive organization of authorship and to analyze its participation in both the textual and extra-textual strategies of the fi. Ulti- mately I am interested in Rohmer's discourse on Kleist more for what it conceals than what it reveals about the fi.

It is on the level of authorial discourse that I compare the novella and the film. However, I do so not because I harbor the belief that the quahty of an adaptation is to be judged on the basis of its faithful adherence to the liter- ary text; instead, the comparison is motivated by the fact that "Kleistn3 has been resurrected by filmmakers, writers, and critics alike for the purpose of illuminating concerns of the present historical and cultural ~ontext.~

One of the salient qualities of the Kleistian text for contemporary writers and filmmakers is related to the debates around the usefulness

The German Quarterly 64.1 (1991) 6

of modernism vs. realism in addressing the crises of postindustrial society. Indeed, "Kleist" has come to represent a kind of pre- modernist textuality that serves to disrupt the worlungs of ideology as it constructs co- herent bourgeois subjecti~ity.~

This has been of interest as well to feminist critics, whose reception of Kleist's texts is related to the textual destabilization of the masculine subject of enlightenment humani~rn.~

I intend to show that Rohmer's invocation of the authority of Kleist serves to solve the crisis of modernity in a rather un-Kleistian manner, thus restor- ing the subject to its place of transcendence. Ultimately I am interested in what mecha- nisms are at work in the transformation of the Kleistian text into a realist film.

This does not mean that this study is in- formed by definitions of the Author as the "'natural' authority over his ~ork."~

Instead it is an inquiry guided in part by Foucault's asser- tion that authorship and subjectivity are con- nected by the subject positions made possible in and through authorial discour~e.~

However, against Foucault and informed by feminist dis- cussions, I wish to show that the authorship1 subjectivity connection is related to the ques- tion of who writes or makes films.g The re- lationship between gender and writinglfilming is at stake here, a relationship that is very difficult to be sure, but one whose relevance is to be measured perhaps by the ease with which a particular artist naturalizes or univer- salizes assumptions about art and identity.

The comments that Rohmer made to the press regarding the primacy of Kleist's text reveal an attitude toward the literary source that is best described as adulatory. Rohmer credits the text of Kleist with an mfallibility that reduces Rohmer's role as filmmaker to the secondary role of a "stand-in" for Kleist. He asserted as much in a statement to the New York Times (22 October 1976):"It wasn't simply the action I was drawn to, but the text itself. I didn't want to translate it into images or a filmed equivalent. I wanted to use the text as if Kleist himself had put it directly on screen, as if he were making a movie." I am not presenting these statements in order to ascertain the intentions of Rohmer as a key to textual interpretation. These assertions must be considered part of the film text itself, the pre-text so to speak, in which audience expectations are created. Seen in thls way, the director's pronouncements about his fii begin a process of constructing a relation be- tween the spectator and the film, which in this case is characterized by creating a figure of authority through the proper name of Kleist. Yet this authority is not constructed in any biographical specificity; there appear virtually no references to the many details recorded about Kleist's life. On the contrary, Kleist is simply equated with the text, and the viewer is pre-conditioned to accept the film as a reproduction of the essence of its author, mediated through the filmmaker. The West German press coverage supported Rohmer's assertions by focusing on this as- pect of the filmmaking process. Eberhard Seybold wrote in this review, ". . . im gan-Zen gleicht Eric Rohmers Einstellung der des Autors" (Frankfurter Neue Presse 1 July 1976).

In fulfiig the expectations created by the pre-textual discourse, the film text is con- structed around a phenomenological center and privileged point of view created through the textual figure of the author, Kleist. This is not to say that the ficreates meaning around biographical references to Kleist; rather, it uses the trope of the author in order to lend itself the authority to equate the liter- ary source with the visual by postulating a truth about the text that can be reproduced without loss. Kleist as author is not a con- sciously reflected position within the text but rather the invisible term around which the text is re-aestheticized.

The position and arrangement of the printed text in the opening title credits con- tinue the work of the pre-textually constructed relation between Kleist and Rohmer. In white letters on a black background one reads in the upper left-hand screen "Heinrich von Kleists Novelle." In the center of the frame and in much larger print appears the title, Die Marquise von 0 . . ., and on the bottom right one reads "von Eric Rohmer inszeniert," printed in the same size as the reference to Kleist. This arrangement defies the narrative itself as the conduit that binds the author and filmmaker, suggesting a merg- ing of the two authorial identities through the text, a merging that entails a process of "look- ing up" to Kleist from the more humble posi- tion of the director. In addition, one can see how the credit sequence inadvertently ex- poses the operations of patriarchal culture as it concerns the representation of Woman. Femininity, represented by the centrality of the woman in the title, is the main object of interest. However, her existence is predicated on the narrative power of the masculine posi- tion, represented by the names of the author and the filmmaker that bracket her visibility.

The film opens with an intertitle from the novella: "In M . . ., einer Stadt im oberen Italien." The use of intertitles from the novella is repeated throughout the film and is em- ployed at crucial points in the narrative. As has been pointed out by critics, it serves to transform the spectator into a reader of the Kleistian text and, in doing so, foregrounds the literary source. In the scene that follows the opening intertitle a group of men in a tavern are engaged in a discussion of the Mar- quise's ad, in which she publicly announces her pregnancy and begins her search for the father. When the men discuss the Marquise's life story, they speak in a stylized manner, as if they were reading. This underscores the narrative authority of the literary source.

Here, in this opening scene, the norm of the camera position is established. Its view of the events is that of an uninvolved yet curious onlooker. The medium shot and long take re- cord the men's discussion, and the absence of shot-reverse-shots refuses secondary iden- tification with any particular character. Indeed, Rohmer stated in an interview: "Und man hat gesagt, ich weirj nicht wer, Kleist erzahlt wie ein Erzaer, der den Riicken zum Publikum dreht. Deshalb ist die Kamera ziem- lich weit von den Schauspielern entfernt."1° The only close-up in this scene is of the text of the Marquise's ad, again positioning the spectator as a reader of Kleist. In this first scene the intertitle, the norm of the medium shot, and the literary style of the spoken word combine to create the narrative figure through and in the author, Kleist. His authority is constructed not only as the creator of the events but also at the origin of the gaze. Unable to separate himherself from the look of the cam- era, the spectator is merged with the place of Rohmer's representation of the Kleistian narrator and views the events as one with him.

The end of the first scene in the tavern is followed by a transition into a flashback of the events that led up to the Marquise's ad. It is marked by the trailing-off delivery of the line "bis der Krieg plotzlich . . ." and is followed by a fade to the first scene of the story in the parlor in the residence of her father, the Com- mander. Since the spectator's perspective of the pro-filmic event is organized by long takes and medium-long shots (the distanced position of our metaphorical author narrating with his back turned to the audience), the mise en scene is far more central than is editing in the analysis of the production of meaning and of the representation of sexuality in the film. Given the predominance of the stationary cam- era position, noticeable shifts in editing proce- dure-such as the use of close-up and shot- reverse-shot-demand special attention when used. This becomes crucial later in the discussion.

This first scene of the story proper opens onto a domestic setting in the Commander's residence moments before it comes under siege by Russian troops. Through the use of deep-focus photography and the long shot, this scene depicts the women (the Marquise, her mother, and female servants) engaged in domestic activities. The Marquise and her mother sit on either side of an imaginary mid- dle line, which creates a frame characterized by classical symmetry and harmony. From the deep space, the Marquise's father breaks into the center of the frame to announce the im- pending danger of war and commands the women to evacuate. Panic ensues and the women scurry about the room, throwing the symmetrical arrangement of space into chaos.

This initial disruption to peace and harmony is spatially defined by the intrusion of men's business (war) into the feminine sphere of domestic activity. After this rather disturbing event the family resettles into its town house, where the reestablishment of order is defined again in terms of a spatial arrangement in which the Marquise and her mother continue to take up specified positions in the mise en scene. We are simultaneously returned to a point-of-view analysis of these spaces, de- scribed by Brigitte Peucker as "organized from the standpoint of a centrally-located, un- self-consciously authoritative spectatorial eye"" which, as I have indicated, is constituted through the textual figure of Kleist. Peucker goes on to observe that in the town house there is another repetition of the opening scene's spatial arrangement: the creation in deepspace of "tunnels of exit and entry" ex- clusively occupied by the men.u

This spatial organization is related to the development of a critique of masculinity in the film, rendered all the more effective by the refusal of the camera to inhabit the masculine spaces associated with power and disruption or to create secondary identification with the main arbiter of power, the Marquise's father. This is nowhere more obvious than in the sequence in which the Marquise learns that she has been ordered by her father to leave the house due to her confirmed but unex- plained state of pregnancy. This sequence con- tains all the mechanics of masculine power in their most unveiled form, thus delivering a heightened and more dramatic exposure of the function of the spatial divisions in the frame: feminine spaces are in fact also areas of confinement, while entering and exiting is a prerogative of the masculine, a prerogative that is contingent upon the power to govern the movement of the feminine. While confined to her bedroom after receiving confirmation of her pregnancy, the Marquise sees her brother enter her room to read a dictated note that orders her to leave her father's house. His position of power is constructed here in his doubly mediated (dictated and read) communication, which virtually renders him inaccessible to the Marquise. There is thus an association set up between the tunnels

The perspective that organizes this event is clearly on the side of the feminine. The camera follows the Marquise from her bed- room to her father's office and remains at all times outside the masculine-defined space in the frame. Legitimation of the father's author- ity is averted by the camera's refusal to view the events from his perspective. As a result, the father is exposed by the distanced eye of the camera as an arbitrary tyrant who would protect his authority at the cost of losing his daughter.

Despite this pervasive critique of masculine authority, there is one male figure who

of exit and entry, power and ina~cessibility.~ is treated differently from the others: the

The Marquise's reaction expresses a desire to disturb the spatial structure that gives the Commander his power. In a desperate attempt to convince her family of her innocence, she leaves her room for her father's office, where she pleads to be heard. Spatially this trans- gression is construed through the Marquise's attempt to force her way through an exit tun- nel into the deepspace of the frame when she tries to cross the threshold to her father's office, where the entire family is gathered. In the struggle that ensues, her father grabs a gun from the wall and shoots it. This act signifies the seriousness of the divisions in the frame that represent the power of the men over the movement of the women.

The Marquise's mother shares the mas- culine space of power on this one occasion, but it is clear that she is not there by virtue of her ability to enter and exit this space free- ly. Quite the contrary, she is there at the order of the Commander, her husband. In- deed, the firing of the gun causes her to sink as if she herself had been targeted. This sym- pathetic response certainly allies her with the Marquise, for whom the shot was fired. Hence, this particular form of patriarchal fa- milial space is shown not to be the idealized private sphere of love and acceptance but rather the enforcement of the Law of the Father.

Count. He is set apart from the other male characters in part by dress. Like the Mar- quise, who wears white empire dresses, he is clad predominantly in white. The fact that he acts as a constant challenge to the father's authority is a theme throughout the film and the novella. Moreover, upon occasion he is exempted from the critical gaze of the ironi- cally commenting camera, and through the use of classical shot-reverse-shot editing a power is conferred upon hi that is denied to the other male characters. The conspicuous rarity of this editing technique makes its occa- sional use all the more meaningful and, signif- icantly, it is in the presence of the Count that it occurs.

There are a number of important scenes involving the Count and the Marquise in which reverse-shot editing is employed. One takes place when the Count, who had been reported killed in battle, returns to the town house to announce his desire to marry the Marquise. The Count, like the other male figures, enters through the hallway, the space from which the feminine is invaded. In this sense he is allied with masculine prerogative. However, rather than being held at a critical distance, the Count is featured in an unexpected shot-reverse- shot sequence between him and the Mar- quise. We know that at this point in the narra- tive there is a growing crisis in the family

revolving around the Marquise's unexplained bodily symptoms. The Marquise nevertheless states that she is well, which the Count re- fuses to accept as trut!!, insisting instead that she must be suffering from physical discom- fort. This dialogue is constructed through al- ternating reverse-angle shots in which the Marquise is shot from a higher angle-from the point of view of the Count who is stand- ing-and the Count is shot from the lower perspective of the Marquise sitting on the divan. This editing procedure combines with the content of the dialogue to confer upon the Count a superior knowledge and authority, which is exempt from the critical gaze of the camera.

The source of the Count's authority is con- stituted in a scene that is central to the film's narrative development: the rape scene. The Count's privileged source of knowledge about the Marquise's nature is established by the manner in which the rape scene is constructed both visually and narratively. The situation of the rape is one of the few changes Rohmer made in his otherwise close adherence to the literary source. There are two important de- viations from the novella: the placement of the event in narrative time and the represen- tation of the event itself. In the novella the Count rescues the Marquise from her aggres- sors, at which point she "loses conscious- ness." It is here in the literary text that the infamous dash occurs, representing the rape. In the film the Count leaves the Marquise after the rescue and returns to battle. In the meantime, the Marquise is given a sedative and is fast asleep by the time the Count re- turns to the scene of the bed. These changes construct, in the name of Kleist, a much more stabilized relation between enunciating and spectatorial subjectivity than is the case in the novella.

In the novella the crisis that follows the Count's dashing rescue is not caused by the disruption represented by rape per se to the order based on sexual division. The crisis is rather the outcome of a rape that is not rep- resented at all. It is a glaring absence, a gap in the text, which Kleist refused to close by means of representation. The growing prob- lem of the Marquise's pregnancy is not a con- sequence of the rape itself but of the Mar- quise's unconscious refusal to know who raped her.I4 Her amnesia functions as a refusal to restore to the father what he needs in order to regain his power: the assurance of the po- sition of knowledge.

The Marquise's refusal to know the perpe- trator blocks the avenues through which the father's authority could be maintained and on which basis he could avenge and rectify the act that threatens his property and its ex- changeability. Conventional notions of rape make it a crime against the father.15 The Mar- quise, by refusing knowledge of her rapist, does not allow the functioning of such a dis- course on rape. From this point of view, one sees that her rejection from the family is a result of her inability to give information nec- essary for its smooth operation. Thus the cir- culation of her own reading of her body in the form of the ad that begins the narrative-a result of her unconscious refusal to know the truth of her impregnation-is at the same time a refusal to allow her bodylsexuality to be read with the terms of the prevailing discourse, which positions masculinity and femininity within the architecture of patrilineal law.

The narrative changes made in the fi transform the interpretation of the remain- der of the story. The Marquise, having been given a sedative, is effectively robbed of any knowledge of the event -conscious or uncon- scious. This makes it impossible to see her silence as a refusal to submit to the patriarchal order. If indeed she was asleep and if the Count is aware of her state, then he is sure of her absolute innocence. Moreover, her lack of knowledge of the child's father is no longer a resistance against oppressive structures; in- stead, it is a reflection of her good and inno- cent character. The feminine in the film is thereby constructed as the pure victim of a social order in which her subjectivity has been stripped of its active struggle -albeit uncon- scious-and is replaced by its aestheticization into eroticized innocence and purity.

These changes in narrative development are accompanied by images that further the film's aestheticization of the feminine. That which was represented by a dash in the novella is transformed into an image in the film. Upon the Count's return to the bed of the drugged Marquise, there is a shot of her draped erot- ically across the bed. The shot is recorded from the Count's point of view and is followed by a reverse shot of the Count in which the camera moves in for a close-up of his face and then fades. Whereas the dash in the novella at first leaves the reader clueless as to its meaning, the conventions of cinematic codes make explicit the point that a forbidden sexual act ensues. Furthermore, the shot of the Mar- quise draped across the bed presents the erotic woman from the point of view of the one man upon whom the film confers author- ity. This scene positions the spectator with the Count and constitutes the woman as the object of desire. Through this device the film narrative is set in motion by the constitution of the desirer and its object, a moment that re-directs the entire narrative toward the res- olution of its erotic tension.

The narrative turning point, the Marquise's decision to leave her father's house and devote her life to her children, is central to the de- velopment toward a resolution. Here again the sigmficance of this act is much less ambiv- alent in the film than in the novella. Although in the novella the father's authority has been overturned by the Marquise's refusal to fill in the gap, the text demonstrates that the Mar- quise's reactions are formed in and through the ideology that gives the patriarch his power. A closer look at the Marquise shows that her attempts to understand her body and her feelings are always mediated. The narrative irony makes visible not only a gap between what the Marquise's feelings and body know but also the impossibility of any immediate manner of knowing these realms. In her case to act or to speak does not betoken expressing a superior or unalienated self; rather, it signifies lending herself to a par- ticular representation from somebody else's script.

What is the mediated form of the Mar- quise's inner feelings? In order to escape the conflict in which she finds herself, she draws on Christian myth and explains her situation in terms of the Virgin Mary. By identifying with the Virgin Mary and the possibility of virgin birth, she has found a way to remain virtuous while at the same time removing her- self from the system of the exchange of women. In this way one can see the allusions to religion and myth as a discourse of refusal and resistance, not as a superior manifestation of feminine consciousness. Thus the Mar- quise's action is best understood as a reaction constructed in conflictual terms: it is a resis- tance to the structures that oppress her at the same time that it is a product of the ideologies that give the patriarchy its power. The Marquise's inner voice, which allows her to escape the crisis, does not represent "the voice of truth and reason.""j As Thomas Fries has pointed out, the Marquise's attempt to come to terms with the social crisis is more accurately described as a process of covering it over in a symbolic system in which the per- fect father, God-the-father, makes up for the imperfections of the earthly family."

The fi interpretation of this central tran- sitional moment de-emphasizes the ambiva- lent nature of the Marquise's actions. It does so by privileging the inner voice of the Mar- quise and creating a less ambivalent relation to the source of the Marquise's strength. The Christian myth upon which the Marquise draws is authorized in the film in a way it is not in the novella. As observed by Carol Jacobs, in the novella "the stylus from above destroys all sanctity of the coherent internal voice."18 As a result the reader who- through the ironic distance created between herb- self and the characters-knows better, "does not know more clearly."19 However, in the film the clarity of vision that the Marquise achieves in her decision to give herself over to a system of symbols that maintains her virtue is less subject to narrative irony.

The transition brought about by the Mar- quise's move to the country house is accom- panied by changes in film codes that would suggest narrative alliance. The interior of the town house is scattered with sculptured busts of feminine heads that interact with the charac- ters in interesting ways. For example, as Peucker pointed out, there is one scene in which a close shot frames the Count's head along with one such "serenely immutable mar- ble bust."'O This shot is a clever representation of the role of his image of woman, as it helps determine his actions and attractions vis-a-vis the Marquise. Indeed, when she is in her father's house, the Marquise tries desper- ately to live up to such ideals of womanhood. The plastic quality of her speech and body movements create an association with the marble busts, just as her white dress corre- sponds to the color of the marble figures.

Whereas in the town house the Marquise assumed the objectified status of womanhood akin to the artistic reproductions in the mise en sckne, there is now a shedding of such artificiality in regard to her representation. In the carriage scene in which she sits between her children while being driven to the country house, she is clad not in white but in an earthy brown cape. In addition, the camera moves in for a closer shot in this scene, framing the mother and children together at a central point in the narrative. This change in framing code produces a more intimate and personal image. For the fist time the Marquise, flanked by her children, no longer resembles the plastic quality of femininity through artistic imagery. The move to the country house is thus a meta- phor for a larger transition, a transition within the Marquise's consciousness.

Given that the authority of Kleist has been established through the conflation of the dis- tanced gaze and the text of the novella, does this shift in coding signify a separation of the identities of author and filmmaker? On the contrary, it was upon Kleist's authority that it was made possible. Indeed, the transforma- tion was preceded by a reference to Kleist in the form of two long intertitles: "Durch diese schone Anstrengung mit sich selbst bekannt gemacht, hob sie sich plotzlich, wie an ihrer eigenen Hand, aus der ganzen Tiefe, in welche das Schicksal sie herabgestiirzt hatte, empor."

This is followed by: "Ihr Verstand stark genug, in ihrer sonderbaren Lage nicht zu reil3en, gab sie sich ganz unter der grossen, heiligen und unerklirlichen Einrichtung der Welt ge- fangen." Not only does the text justify the change, it explains its underlying cause: the acceptance of the larger order of things on the part of the Marquise.

The larger order of things is allied here with nature and motherhood. A sequence at the country house contains the first scene in the film that escapes the confines of domestic interiors for the openness of a natural setting in the garden, where the Marquise and her children sit together and play. In this setting there occurs another unusual disruption of narrative distance through textual voiceover, which makes audible the thoughts of the Mar- quise. This is the only time the detached view of the characters is broken in this manner with the effect of producing narrative alliance with the subjective view of the Marqui~e.~'

In addition to the narrative privileging of the Marquise, certain elements of the mise en sckne are associated with the Marquise and allude to the nature of her transition. Statues of female figures frame the garden, but in contrast to the busts of female heads in the domestic interiors, these statues are of the entire female body. The difference be- tween the busts in the town house and the statues surrounding the garden suggests that the femininity reached through the Marquise's transformation is more whole, more complete. The completeness is attained in the film through the Marquise's total devotion to her children and the concomitant rejection of the world of erotic desire." Like the statues surrounding the garden, this redefined femi- ninity is no longer bodiless, although still sex- less.

If the Marquise now embodies a feminine consciousness characterized by strength and virtue, the film has prepared the way for the proposal of a masculine counterpart: the Count. The final resolution, in content and form, is dependent upon the merging of these two characters. This is achieved formally through the break-down of the divisions be- tween the feminine and the masculine spaces within the frame by the end of the film. The divisions between masculine tunnels of exit and feminine foregrounds have already been considered. In addition to this demarcation there is another system of positions within the frame that functions as a signifier of power difference. The first shot of the Count in the film, when he originally meets the Marquise, is presented from the Marquise's point of view and shows him towering above her, back- lighted in such a way that he appears angelic. In a reverse shot, the Marquise is shown from the Count's point of view, lying in a prone position on the ground before him. Throughout the rest of the film this relation between sitting and standing, between rising and fall- ing, between high and low in the frame be- comes a metaphor for dominance and submis- sion in which the first term of the opposition is equated with masculinity and the second with femininity. In the scenes in which the family and the Count are gathered together, for instance, the Count is the only masculine character who transgresses this system by throwing himself at the feet of both the Mar- quise and her mother. This is obviously a cause for discomfort for the others, and at one point the mother insists that he stand up.

In another instance the father reacts to the Count's proposal of marriage to the Marquise with a command that the Count sit Through this device the Marquise's submis- sion to the given order in the fist half of the film is expressed in her frequent falling to the ground. Her transition is marked when-in the country house-her mother falls to the feet of her daughter in an act of submissive repentance, with which the Marquise, in her state of new consciousness, refuses to com- ply. Instead, she pulls her mother to her feet, thereby insisting on the dissolution of such


In the final scene of the film, the Count and the Marquise are united in the space that had thus far been occupied by the women. This is also the space of narrative alliance, as shown previously. In a position that sym- bolizes the dissolution of the structures of dominance and submission, they sit together on the divan in the parlor of the town house. There is no longer a division between deep-space and foreground or between higher and lower in the frame. In a sense, they have met in the middle, symbolizing a change in the consciousness that had previously prevented them from seeing each other as "human." Now the Count and the Marquise have learned to

see each other in terms that are stable and based upon the reality of the Marquise's virtue. Moreover, the narrative progression had allowed for a scenario in which false images had prevented the characters from seeing the world and each other outside their own subjec- tive preoccupations. Once the Marquise ac- cepted an order larger than herself, it was possible to rely on imaging to give a truer picture of the world in which the characters could resolve their conflicts.

Despite Rohmer's assertions about the film, an analysis of the relations between the narrative and stylistic systems of the film re- veals that, through the authoritative figure of "Kleist," there emerges a story that is strik- ingly un-Kleistian in its coherence and closure. Whereas Kleist's novella disrupts the stability of any coherent understanding of reality and final resolution of the narrative crisis, the idealistic realism of Rohmer's mise en scene subscribes to a belief in the unique ability of film to capture reality.

Thus, despite his proclamations, it is not the case that "im ganzen die Einstellung Roh- mers der des Autors gleicht." On the contrary, "Kleist" functions as a means of creating spec- tator positions that pave the way for a narra- tive closure not achieved in the literary text. This has grave implications for the meaning of the sexual crisis that gave birth to the nar- rative of Die Marquise von 0 . . . . Rohmer uses "Kleist" as a way to construct a place from which to metaphorize Woman and solve the gender crisis by creating a truth about her and by allowing her to construct a truth about her world that ties her back into the family through the institutions of Christianity and motherhood.

Hence, the "feminine" in the form of de- sexualized Motherhood becomes redefined as a source of female consciousness and strength from which to correct the ills of a social order gone awry. As is true for Kleist, Rohmer's narrative is not a question of "whodonit" but a problem of epistemology. Unlike the novella, the resolution in the film is dependent upon arriving at an alternative truth that abolishes antagonisms. The film's narrative develop- ment and final resolution suggest something about Rohmer's belief in the nature and proj- ect of film itself. Although it does indeed tell a story in which false images and the resulting epistemological confusion are fundamentally related to the outbreak of social disorder, the moral of the film narrative resides in an ulti- mate trust in the ability of image-making to show us the way to epistemological security and ethical truth. Rohmer achieves this by creating a stable positionality from which to address the spectator, a position constructed in and through the authorial figure of Kleist. Formative of this discourse is the notion that the author's consciousness, laid bare in an exact reproduction of this text, will provide the viewer with the opportunity to reflect upon the moral of the story. In doing so, there is little reflection on the extent to which one can be sure about representing some ultimate truth about the consciousness of the author. In Die Marquise von 0 . . . the figure of the author has in fact acted as the narrative glue, a glue that binds the spectator to the image in a way that upholds the fiction of the author- father. Indeed, the authoritative discourse through which the film is constructed is less Kleistian than it is Bazinian.

In an interview for Film Forum Rohmer stated: "I still cherish Andre Bazin's concep- tion of ontology of the cinema, that cinema has its relation to reality the way the other arts do not. What I consider important is pen- etrating reality, not translating it."24 AS David Bordwell has pointed out, the auteurs in the tradition of mise-en-sckne aesthetics aim "to use camera work and editing unobtrusively to

.N QUARTERLY Winter 1991

communicate meanings already implicit in the

action or to suggest a directorial attitude with-

out imposing one."25 Deleuze chooses to speak

of Rohmer's authorial attitude in terms of his

ability to make "the camera a formal ethical

consciousness capable of bearing the free in

direct image of the modern, neurotic

This is precisely the function of the authorial

figure in Die Marquise von 0 . . . . As De-

leuze describes it "the camera does not simply

give us the vision of the character and of his

world; it imposes another vision in which the

first is transformed and refle~ted."~~

Such a relationship to his heroes can indeed be found in Rohmer's critical discourse as well as textually in many of his films. One reads in his early criticism that he objects to much of modem art and consciousness because it presents "a conception of man as deity-if not entirely as God-which is an enormous temptation to our pride and has almost dead- ened Opposed to such an over-valuation of the individual, Rohmer's more classically defined hero is one who "is always in some sense a warrior awoken from the intoxication of battle, suddenly perceiving that he is god no longer."29 Indeed, the use of the camera corresponds precisely with the need for a po- sition that would not share or legitimate the main character's struggle.

The heroes of Rohmer's Moral Tales attest to this. Speaking about their intellectual delib- erations over life choices, Rohmer highlighted the ultimate absurdity of their belief that they are in control of the choices that mold their lives. He wrote: "The character has made a mistake. He realizes he has created an illusion for himself, with himself at the center and it all seemed perfectly logical that he should be the ruler or the god of his world."30 The heroic act is to recognize a deeper, transcendental truth, a truth that had been obscured by self- delusion and self-obsession. As we have seen, such is the case with the Marquise as well.

In Die Marquise von 0 . . . the central turning point of the film takes place around the textual intertitle claiming that the Mar- quise has resolved herself to the "grossen, heiligen und unerurlichen Einrichtung der Welt." Given the authority of the reference to Kleist's text and to the narrative figure of Kleist, this moment functions to create a po- sition of ethical stability that Kleist's ironic presentation does not allow.

The author-function in the film is constructed within an aesthetic discourse that distinguishes between appearances and a deeper reality. The changes Rohmer made in the narrative itself-along with the construc- tion of a position of ethical consciousness con- structed through the Kleistian figure of narra- tion-combine to restore trust in both a tran- scendental order and the ability of film to cap- ture it.

Within this context Kleist's text anticipates the modern in a way that Rohmer does not. Although on one level the novella reaches a similar conclusion, it does not leave the reader with a final confidence in the reliability of such a position. The intricacies of Kleist's narrative reveal the endlessness of the complicating un- conscious, thus highlighting the temporality of any absolute closure or unity achieved in the text. Whereas the film concludes with a position and a positioning, the novella resolves itself by transforming the apparent resolution into a question. In the words of Kristeva, "What is it about the representation of the Maternal in general, and about the Christian or virginal representation in particular, that enables it not only to calm social anxiety and supply what the male lacks, but also to satisfy woman, in such a way that the community of the sexes is established beyond, and in spite of, their flagrant incompatibility and perma- nent state of war?"31

Indeed, the reception of the film in the mid-seventies shows that Rohmer's transfor- mation of Die Marquise von 0 . . . into a realist text, complete with a positive heroine, has served the purpose of calming nerves that are beginning to be ruffled by the rise of the women's movement and feminism. Reviews of the fiare salted with references to the film's portrayal of repressive family structures and the strength exhibited by the Marquise in her response to them. In several fire-views one finds that its political relevance has been judged on the basis of a conventional realist aesthetic with a new focus on women characters. It is the image of the strong woman, the positive heroine, that makes this film salient. Ulrich Kurowski wrote: "Eric Rohmer ist der Filmregisseur der Fra~en."~' He calls Rohmer a feminist and asserts that his choice of the Kleist text was made on the basis of the central passage from the novella in which she gains her strength through ac- cepting the inexplicable order of the world. Kurowski maintains that both Kleist and Roh- mer were celebrating women's integrity and "den Trost, den Frauen geben k~nnen."~~

As Toril Moi has pointed out, realist aesthetics and strong image character analysis judge a text in terms of its "more or less faithful repro- duction of an external reality to which we all have equal and unbiased access, and which therefore enables us to criticize the author on the grounds that he or she has created an incorrect (or correct) model of the reality we all somehow know. This view fails to consider the proposition that the real is not only some- thing we construct, but a controversial con- struction at that."34 Not only does Moi's com- ment reveal what is problematic about the reception of Rohmer's film, it exposes the problem with Rohmer's realist interpretation of Kleist's novella. Alice Jardine suggests a more political textual practice: "To recognize the ways in which we surround ourselves with our fictions is a step toward finding new ways for thinking the organization of sexual differ- ence as grounded in cultural and political real- ity without positing that reality-man or woman, for example -as somehow preexist- ing our thoughts and fiction^."^^


' Heinrich von Kleist, Die Marquise von 0 . . ., mit Ma-
terialien und Bildern zu dem Film von Eric Rohmer,
ed. Werner Berthel (Frankfurt a.M.: Insel, 1979) 111.
Die Welt 26 July 1975.
The quotes around "Kleist" sigdy that his name does
not refer to the author as a biological person but rather
to the author as a discursive practice. In Harari's de-
scription of Foucault's definition of author, it is a "func-
tion by which certain discourses are characterized."
Josue Harari, introduction, Textual Strategies, ed.

Harari (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1979) 42.

'The following West German filmmakers have made films based on Kleist's texts or biography: George Moorse, Dw Findling; Hans-Jiirgen Syberberg, Sun Domingo; Voker Schlondorff, Midtael Kohlhaas; Helma Sanders-Brahms, Heinrich; Hans Neuenfels, Heinrich Penthesilea von Kleist and Die Familie oder Schroj- fenstein. See Klaus Kanzog, ed., Enahlstrukturen, FilmStrukhtren: Enahlungen Heinrich vonKleists und ihre filmkche Realisation (Berlin: Schmidt, 1981). See, for example, Mathieu CarriCre, Fur eine Literatur des Khges, Kleist (Frankfurt a.M.: StroemfeldRoter Stem, 1981); CarolJacobs, "TextslContexts: The Style of Kleist," dMnitics (Winter 1979): 48-60; Thomas Fries, "The Impossible Object: The Feminine, the Nar- rative: Laclos' Liuisons Dangereuses and Kleist's 'Die Marquise von 0 . . .,"' Modern Language Notes 91 (1976): 1296-1326; Fenuccio Masini, "Der Weg der Seele in Kleists Penthesilea," Wege der Literatumissen- schajt, ed. Kokenbrock-Netz, et al. (Bonn: Grund- mann, 1985). See, for example, Ruth Angress, "Kleist's Nation of Amazons," Beyond the Eternal Feminine: Critical Es- says on Women and German Literature, ed. Susan Cocalis and Kay Goodman (Stuttgart: Heinz, 1982): 99-134;Helene Cixous and Catherine Clement, The Newly Born Woman, trans. Betsy Wig (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986); Lilian Hoverland, "Heinrich von Kleist and Luce Irigaray: Visions of the Feminine,"

Amsteniumer Beitrage zur neueren Germanistik. Ge- stnltet undGestultend: Frauen in der deutschen Literatur

10 (1980): 57-82; Inge Stephan, "Da werden Weiber zu Hyaenen: Arnazonen und Amazonenmythen bei Schiller und Kleist," Feministkche Literatunuissen- schaft, ed. Inge Stephan and Sigrid Weigel (Berlin: Argument, 1984): 25-43.

' Nancy Miller, "Changing the Subject: Authorship, Writ- ing, and the Reader:' Feminist Studies, Critical Studies, ed. Teresa de Lauretis (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986): 104. Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?" Tertuul Strate- gies, ed. Josue Harari (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1979) 158-

59. He states: "It [the author] should be reconsidered, not to restore the theme of an originating subject, but to grasp the subject's points of insertion, modes of functioning and system of dependencies." For literature, see Nancy Miller 102-20. For fi, see Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema, esp. chapter 6, "The Female Authorial Voice" (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1988) 187-234.

'" Kleist 118 (see n. 1).

" Brigitte Peucker, "Die Marquise von 0 . . .: Preconception and Aftermath in Kleist and Rohmer," Gen&r Penpectives in German Cinema, ed. Sandy Friedan, et al. (forthcoming).

" Peucker. Brigitte Peucker writes: "In short, men control and patrol both ends of the perspectival tunnel."

" Dorrit Cohn's article addresses this very issue in that she investigates the use of the concepts Bewujtsein and Gewissen in the novella in order to show that the Marquise does indeed know but, for various reasons- including the direction of her own desire -cannot come to terms with what she knows. Dorrit Cohn, "Kleists 'Marquise von 0 . . .': The Problem of Knowledge," M~natshejte67.2 (1975): 127-44.

l5 One of the possible sources for Kleist's novella is a Cervantes novella, in which the rape of a young woman is avenged by the father, thereby restoring social order. Kleist's narrative radically transforms the possibility for such closure. See Gerhard Duennhaupt, "Kleist's 'Mar- quise von 0 . . .' and its Literary Debt to Cervantes," Arcadia 10 (1975): 147-57.

'"acobs 51 (see n. 5).
l7 Fries 1321-22 (see n. 5).
lB Jacobs 48 (see n. 5).
lYJacobs 51.

'I Peucker. 22 In Colin Crisps's recently published study on Rohmer, he states about Die Marquise von 0 . . .: "To put it another way, if all Rohmer's previous fis can be seen as a choice between sexuality and Christian woman- hood, this film can be read as an attempt to show the problems of incorporating both in the same woman: to reconcile the two images in one woman, to ask might Christian woman be not only the source of 'true beauty,' as Rohmer's previous protagonists concluded, but also of 'true sexuality."' Eric Rohmer: Realist and Moralist (Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1988) 78. Alan Spiegel, "The Cinematic Text: Rohmer's Die Mar- quise von 0 . . .," Modern European Filmmakers and the Art ofAduptation, ed. Andrew S. Horton and Joan Magretta (New York: Ungar, 1981) 325.

" ~llen Omlo, Film Forum (New York: St. Martin's, 1985) 180. 25 David Bordwell, "Widescreen Aesthetics and Mise-en- Scene Criticism," The VelvetLight Tr@ 21 (1985): 19.

" Gies Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Jugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986) 77.

27 Deleuze 74.

" Eric Rohmer, "The Land of Miracles," Cahiers du Cinema: The 1950S: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave, ed. Jim Hiller (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1985)

205. " Rohmer 205. "James Monaco, The New Wave (New York: Oxford UP,

1976) 295.
Julia Kristeva, "Stabat Mater," The Female Body in
Western Culture, ed. Susan Rubin Suleiman (Cam-
bridge: Harvard UP, 1986) 101.

"' Ulrich Kurowski, rev. of Eric Rohmer's Die Marquise von 0 . . ., Medium 6 (July 1975): 24.

31 Kurowski 24. Toril Moi, Seruallktual Politics: Feminist Literaty Theory (London, New York: Methuen, 1985) 45.

35 Alice Jardine, Gynesis: Configurations of Woman and Mohrnity (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985) 45.

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