Example Of Extra-diegetic Characterization Of The Film’s Personages By The Director

The context of what we see in this shot is the sudden return of Charles Swann after a long separation from his friends Duke and Duchesse de Guermantes by the reason of his marriage to courtesan Odette de Crasi (the act by which he put himself outside the Duke and Duchesse’s circle – what it means is that they stopped to invite him to their events). Years before his return Swann travelled and worked on his manuscripts, and now he brought to the Duchesse some curious materials and souvenirs from various countries. The main reason for his visit was the fact that he became terminally ill and worried about the future of his daughter – he wanted to ask de Guermanteses not to abandon her with their patronage.

Charles, Duke and Duchesse started to talk about his illness, and this gave chance to Swann (Jeremy Irons) and Oriane de Guermantes (Fanny Ardant) to shift from his illness to the issue of human death and that could give Schlondorff the idea to create this amazing shot, where both heroes, as if, are looking at death, as if, feel its inevitability. It is the difference between how Oriane and, on the other hand, Swann are looking at their deaths makes this shot so exceptionally expressive.

Indeed, what is the difference between how the Duchesse and Swann perceive their corresponding deaths? Charles is already prepared by his illness to accept the inevitability of the end. He, an exceptional person with a scholarly scope and ties with arts is too concentrated on meaning and spirituality to exaggerate the importance of fleshly life. And yet we feel fear on his face, but fear which doesn’t contradict humility, the one without a smallest glimpse of self-immortalizing hope. It is, as if, Swann’s intelligence is a guard of his humility (and his humility a guard of his intelligence). And he wants to see, to experience his final moments – he keeps his monocle alert.

The duchesse, on the other hand, is stiff with her mobilized emotional alertness as self-protection, as if death is a rapist. Oriane covers not only her heart, but her breast – is what she defends the heart of her breast or breast of her heart? Is what she unconsciously defends her life or her very femininity? Is the white glove an obstacle for death? Oriane is still healthy and incredibly rich – and she will try to protect herself against death. Oriane’s neck is strained so strongly, as if it is her skeleton mobilizing itself against the end. Her posture is such, as if she could be only raped by death. She knows that at the end she will collapse, but only in response to overwhelming power.

If Swann is masculine but soft, soften by his wisdom, Oriane is tremendously attractive, even for death, to be sure, and hard – she will resist until she is not broken. Masculinity can surrender (in advance of defeat), but femininity is prone to live through it.

Posted on Jan 5, 2015 – “Swan In Love/Un amour de Swann” (1984) By Volker Schlöndorff’ by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on Oct 24, 2014 – Volker Schlondorff’s “Un Amour de Swann/Swann in Love” (1984) – Two “Knights” Fighting for Their Peculiar Ideals and Lost in A Chivalry-less World by Acting-Out Politics