Memoir of War
Panorama | Spotlight on France
It’s 1944 and the German occupation of Paris is at its height. Writer Marguerite Duras (a terrific Mélanie Thierry) lives in a constant state of anxiety and fear, awaiting news of her husband Robert Antelme, a Resistance fighter who has been captured by Nazi forces. While she waits, she begins a precarious cat-and-mouse game with a Gestapo collaborator named Rabier (Benoît Magimel), in the hopes of accessing information about Robert’s whereabouts. In return, Rabier, a literary aspirant, revels in Duras’ intellectual company and attempts to gain access to her insider knowledge of resistance activities. When the scales begin to tip in favour of a liberated Paris, Rabier suddenly disappears, and Duras’ loneliness and pre-emptive grief seem to take on a life of their own, as survivors begin to slowly trickle into the city.
Shot in muted tones of grey and blue, Memoir of War is a sombre, patient study in interiority. We hear Marguerite’s voiceover throughout, narrating her suffering through detailed prose, and Thierry’s face brilliantly encapsulates her strained weariness. Based on writings from Duras’ wartime memoir La Douleur ("Pain"), Emmauel Finkiel’s film captures the agony of uncertainty and the madness of grief that stake their claim on those left waiting.
"Thierry is utterly convincing and compelling from first to last, in a deglamorized but sensual performance of tautly controlled severity and uncompromising rigor."—Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter