Duras’ “Baxter, Vera Baxter” is a film in which physical motions of the characters are intentionally reduced (Duras denies the importance of physical actions – the very aesthetic mechanism of pop-movies, for serious cinema), and their place is occupied by the protagonists’ contemplations about what’s going on with their lives. Stylistically speaking, the film’s meaning is triggered by the characters’ “thinking perception” of their destinies and by analogies between them and human behavior in different historical periods. We see how in front of our very attention the cognitive and intellectual aspects of living gradually dissolve the standardized or typical life and become a spiritual concentration, a journey into existential sublime.

What happens in the main characters’ lives (not only in Vera Baxter’s, who is in front of us almost all the time, or her husband’s, whom we never see, but in souls of those who are connected with them) is not “dramatized” and is not perceived by human emotions. Instead, the meaning of human destinies we are allowed to follow is the object of personages’ holistic (not common sense and not technical) minds focused on the whys this or that can happen with human beings. Duras’ film polemically contradicts the permanent visual sliding of the images in movie as motion picture, when movements flow into one another with entertaining effect on the human perception. For Duras pop-movies are “illusionistic mystification” based on our need to be amused. The more “moving movements” we consume, the more “acting actions” we glue to – the deeper we‘re structured by the very suspension of our intellectual needs (especially our desire to understand – to overcome passive and conformist – consumerist approach to reality). The quicker we swallow the crowded impressions – the more pleasure we appropriate, while holistic (not standardized) thinking is a pure loss of pleasure.

“Baxter, Vera Baxter” is not a pleasurable watch, but it’s an overwhelming and a difficult delight. Like the sensitive gigolo (Gerard Depardieu), to whom Vera’s (Claudine Gabay) husband has “sold” his wife, fell in love with her, we, the viewers, unexpectedly and catastrophically are falling in love with her in a special – sublimated and spiritual way. We become obsessed with her – with her pain and despair which Duras transforms into an irresistible passion for life, for meaning of life, for being part of the living universe, a tiny part which can somehow make a difference in the order of things.

Of course, for this transformation of torment into freshness of life, Vera had to meet “the other woman” (Delphine Seyrig personifying Duras-like character), a person who is simultaneously compassionate, reflective and historically competent about our species’ condition of men and destiny of women. According to Duras, disinterested and without any pomp, help among human beings is the beginning of the answer. Has the intelligent mediator between Jean Baxter’s money and Vera’s future (Depardieu) become really ashamed for his role or did he just play the ill conscience so as to anonymously slide out with the money, as though nothing had happened? It’s a fifty-fifty question, like as it is with many money decisions of many moneyed men concerning women. But the point of the film is that Vera becomes irresistible as a woman because of her existential spirituality which unexpectedly surfaced out of her torments connected with abrupt losing her family – the “ordeal” which her desperate husband (surrounded by beautiful young women and suffering from losing the ability to love another human beings) has imposed on her.

Jean’s suffering is morbid and widespread condition in post-modern societies, connected with separation of sex from love as a symptom of general psychological degradation – separation of sexual drive as a consumerist consolation from shattered, fragmented love as previously holistic feeling.


Vera is like an awkward superfluous object marginalized by the interior – space for embracing/protecting the philistine’s happiness


After being abandoned by her husband, Vera is, as if, curious in a new way about the world not as container (as womb-like structure fabricated by the efforts of technology), but as an alternative to the interior as a place of philistine happiness.


Vera feels the sea in front of her in the very moment when it, as if, withdraws from the land appropriated by human settlements.


For the first time in her life Vera feels the desire to go through walls and windows out of the house – leave, breakaway from domestic life. Reflections become more real than comfort inside the interior.


The man (Gerard Depardieu) who got money from Vera’s husband doesn’t know what to do – to follow his love for Vera, mixed with shame, or to withdraw and disappear with the million, burying his shame into the emptiness of silence.


“The other woman” (Delphine Seyrig) is trying to help Vera to overcome the past and open herself to the unknown. She knows that the official steps based on the rights provided by democracy (like alimony and child support), will not help the human soul, but only the needs of the human ego, and make sense only in parallel with psychological maturity, but not instead of it. Woman is supposed to win over herself and over the humiliating and traumatizing situations – spiritually, like men should in their own tormenting moments in their destinies.

Posted on March/22/2017 –   Marguerite Duras’s “Baxter, Vera Baxter” (1977) – When the Director’s Intra-filmic Contemplation Becomes Her Film’s Style It Dissolves Action Into Compassion For Her Characters And Plot Into a Sensuous Journey by Acting-Out Politics