Oh, and speaking of the plot… WHAT?
I don’t know where to begin with this review, because I don’t know if I liked the movie or not, because I don’t know if it was good or not, because I don’t really understand anything that happened in it. Does that make sense? There is absolutely no expository dialogue or action in Mariages, making it damned confusing to follow the plot. Oh, and speaking of the plot… WHAT?
Let me try to piece together what I know: Yvonne lives in an old mansion with her sister Hélène. She enjoys going out into the woods and swimming in the river, but her sister keeps telling her to cut that out. Why Hélène has such an iron grip on Yvonne is beyond me. One of the characters in the house is dying, but I couldn’t figure out what of, or what her relationship is to the two sisters. The corpse of Yvonne’s mother is discovered to have turned into salt when it is dug up, but I couldn’t figure out why it was dug up or why it turned into salt. At a few points in the film, supernatural forces intervene with the action, but I couldn’t figure out what triggered them or what the hell they accomplished. Then Yvonne goes to live in a convent. The “one year later” segment at the end of the film was even more confusing because, well, a year’s worth of events have taken place, and it does nothing to fill us in or explain Yvonne’s situation as the film closes, even though it’s obvious something happened. There are all sorts of scenes in Mariages that appear to be utterly unrelated to any of the other events in the film. Even the title (which translates to Marriages in case you didn’t know) doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything.
Movies that bombard the viewer with questions as to what the hell is going on only work when they convince us that the answers are actually interesting. This happens with a film like The Others, or Mulholland Drive. This does not happen during Mariages, because it seems to assume that you know exactly what is going on.
In all honesty, I’m not trying to make this film sound bad. If that was the case, I would have gone with a low, low rating and been done with it. But there is a style of filmmaking at work here, and I’m sure that I neither understand it nor appreciate it. Maybe I’m just dense and didn’t pick up on things that I should have. Because Mariages was so consistent in nearly every technical and narrative aspect, I got the sense that it wasn’t doing something wrong, just different. There are certain things about the film that I recognize as high points, such as the gorgeous photography of Yvonne’s beloved woods. Also, everyday life during that period seems to have been meticulously and extensively recreated; You almost feel transported back in time.
For the most part, though, I spent most of the screening puzzled and vaguely bored. Again, I don’t think I have an appreciation for what Mariages was trying to accomplish, but I feel confident giving it the benefit of the doubt and saying that it was trying to accomplish something.