Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: French: LPCM 2.0
- Alternative cut of the film entitled, N. Took the Dice (79 min)
- Interview with Alain Robbe-Grillet (31 min)
- 2014 Short Promo
- Three Robbe-Grillet Trailers
The 1970s ushered in the beginning of, what most film historians consider, the end of the La Nouvelle Vague, or the French New Wave. Jean Luc-Godard, perhaps the leading figure of the movement, had fundamentally transformed his style—fashioning a radical politicization of his films in the wake of the May 1968 movement—and by the mid 1970s entered into a period of obscurity. While the New Wave was becoming less commercially viable, the decade is marked by an incessant production of important films. Perhaps one of the most important directors—a director only loosely linked to the New Wave movement—working within this period is Alain Robbe-Grillet. Starting his career in the 1950s as an important figure for the New Novel, Robbe-Grillet transitioned to the cinema with Last Year at Marienbad, a collaborative work between Robbe-Grillet and director Alain Resnais. Following Marienbad, Robe-Grillet wrote and directed three films, all black-and-white arthouse films, marked by his sense of non-linear, fragmentary narrative structures. It was in 1970, with the release of L’Eden et après aka Eden and After, that Robbe-Grillet was to first experiment with color film. The result is a beautiful, whirlwind of a story that, despite its ambiguity, is perhaps one of Robbe-Grillet’s most linear films. While Robber-Grillet’s work has garnished wide critical appraise, his work has yet to receive the home video attention that many of his contemporaries have. However, that is beginning to change and, thanks to Kino Lorber’s Redemption imprint, a slew of Robbe-Grillett films are being given the Blu-Ray treatment, including L’Eden et après.
To summarize a Robbe-Grillet plot is somewhat impractical. Much of the experience is in watching the events unfold: creating a structure out of chaos, a meaning to his madness. Robbe-Grillet is a master of ambiguity, of duality. While fashioning a concise summation is no easy task, it is perhaps only a slightly simpler task for L’Eden et après. At its core L’Eden et après is an adventure film that follows Violette and a series of her bored classmates. Beginning at Eden, a labyrinthine social club where the students attempt to eliminate the monotony of life through a series of games, the film quickly spirals into a series of vignettes depicting the student’s disturbing form of entertainment. The games, which depict acts of rape, murder, and deception, go on until they are interrupted by the arrival of a Stranger, who we later learn is named Duchemin (and sometimes reffered to as Dutchman).The arrival of the stranger ushers in the film’s second act, where the group of student’s begin to plot against Violette in order to obtain a valuable painting she acquired after her uncle passed away. Important for the second act is Violette’s consumption of a mysterious white powder, which for many has become a source of explanation for the film’s chaotic third act. The second act ends with the death of Duchemin, the disappearance of his body, and Violette’s journey to Tunisia.
Arriving in Tunisia, the film hits its most linear, but also its most surreal, stride. In the final act of the film her fellow students, who hope to obtain the painting they believe she is hiding, incarcerate Violette. Held in a cell contained within a Tunisian hut, Violette is the victim of both physical and sexual abuse. Eventually she is able to escape and encounters her doppelganger, who clothes her and assists her escape from the village. In the film’s final moments, Violette’s Tunisian trek is absorbed back into club Eden, the film ends essentially where it began.
Many—and it seems apt to assume that it is a reasonable assessment—have interpreted all of the scenes occurring between the final Eden scene and Violette’s consumption of the white powder as the drug-induced trip of Violette. Evidence for this reading of the film could be found in the repetitious events that play out in both the student’s seemingly victimless games at Eden and their counterparts in Tunisia. However, it would seem that a singular analysis of any Robbe-Grillet film would be far too limited. Rather the film represents the groundwork for numerous interpretations, each gaining life through their viewer’s psyches.
Despite the fact that the film is hard to decipher, Robbe-Grillet doesn’t fail to include an abundance of stylistic and entertaining visuals. The film is highly eroticized and visual. It oscillates through a series of violent, disturbing and highly sexualized images, crafting a story that is both erotic and frightening. It is a thrilling viewing experience, forcing the spectator through a cavalcade of emotions.
Technically, it is hard to find much to criticize in L’Eden et après. While traditional viewers may struggle with the ambiguity and nonlinear nature of the film, the film is far from contrived. Whether Robe-Grillet is highlighting the labyrinthine aspects of Eden through his telephoto lense and quick cuts, or the more wide and open shots that expand the visual nature of the Tunisian landscape, Robbe-Grillet matches his style to the setting and feeling. In L’Eden et après, his directorial work is as strong as his writing, perhaps the strongest it ever was. Despite it being his first foray in color filmmaking, he masterfully adapts to the differing techniques. Robbe-Grillet manipulates color throughout the film in a manner that is both symbolic and aesthetically pleasing.
While it is hard to decipher whether the print’s imperfections lie in the original celluloid, or through the process of restoration, the result is still nothing short of beautiful. The newly remastered 1.66:1 transfer, from the original 35mm print, is for the most part bold and crisp. The most stunning aspect of the print is its depiction of color. The rich tapestry of red, pale blue, and yellow elements nearly pop from the screen. There are moments where there is an exceptionally large amount of film grain, but again, it is hard to know whether these are the result of a poor transfer, and it would be assumed that exist in the original print. The most assuring aspect is how faithful the transfer is, with little-to-no noticeable moments of digital enhancement present.
While the video may be imperfect, the audio is exemplary. The LPCM 2.0 audio mix is dynamic, faithfully balancing the dialogue and sound effects with the brooding and anxious soundtrack. Little to no hiss, cracks, or pops are present, and despite a few moments of poor ADR, the audio is nearly flawless.
The main draw of the Kino Lorber Redemption release is probably the inclusion of the alternative cut for L’Eden et après, entitled “N. Took the Dice.” The alternative cut is a 79 minute long complementary story, where the roll of a dice takes the film through an entirely different structure and editing method, only adding to the multiplicity of readings the film offers. In addition, Robbe-Grillet fans will be pleased with a thirty-minute interview, where he discusses his transition into color, and how he addressed various implications of the film. Finally, there are a three Robbe-Grillet trailers and a 2014 promo short.
L’Eden et aprèsis not a film for every viewer. While the traditional genre fan has a lot to bite their teeth into, the film’s vague narrative may turn many viewers off. However, if you are able to suspend your narrative expectations, the film is (much like its own narrative) a journey, an experience individual to each viewer. Packaged with a newly restored print, and the alternative-cut, Kino Lorber Redemption’s Blu-Ray package is currently the best (albeit the only) way to experience the film from the comfort of your home.