Schlondorff’s “Swan In Love” is a preciously rare example of not just an analytically-critical but analytically-political film. If Raoul Ruiz’s “Time Regained” (1999) is an exceptional example of analytically-critical cinematic discourse (based on Proust’s spiritually intellectual descriptions and deliberations), Schlondorff’s film is wholesomely analytically-political. In other words, it adds to the analytically-critical approach a loud slapping of the characters and their way of life which analytically-critical elaboration will refuse to allow itself because “it will not help to understand the depicted human situations in a more ‘objective’ semantic terms and instead just show a politically adversarial (subjective, competitive) reaction on them”.

The acting of Ornella Mutti, Jeremy Irons and Alain Delon perfectly corresponds to and elaborates (each for his/her own character) Schlondorff’s (interpretative) concept of the literary material. In Irons’ reading of the character, Swann cannot resist self-reflecting/ self-aggrandizing/self-admiring intonations (which seem dissonantly exaggerated in comparison with that of Pierre Arditi who dubbed Iron’s voice in French version of the film), Baron de Charlus – Delon’s megalomaniacal, sharp and self-ironic/self-pleasing gestures, created by the actor particularly for Charlus, and Odette de Crecy – Ornella Mutti’s intentionally streamlined and flattened voice and coquettish or depressed smiles or her solemn seriousness. In spite of being treated politically adversarially by the director (who marks Swan and Charlus as self-aggrandized narcissists besides being decent human beings and genuine intellectuals), they are not made into caricatures but portrayed honestly and in a balanced way.

Swann is not a lover; he is a worshipper of feminine beauty as a metaphysical value, like de Charlus is not a homosexual but a missionary converting the young heterosexuals into the cult of man’s sexual equality and solidarity. While Swann is a savior of beauty from the dirty intentions of the rude and ugly aristocratic and bourgeois males with predatory/consumptive interests, de Charlus is a guru of men’s bodily brotherhood. In both cases our elegant protagonists carry quite revolutionary intentionality. But their desire to liberate their chosen objects is rooted in and follows their conditions – Odette must be noble and pose as an aesthetic homunculus, and de Charlus’ young guys must convert into an all-male sexual cult of equals in body and soul while they dream about being above others even or especially if they are poor. Aristocratic idealism, in other words, has a cost, not only for the noble idealists themselves, but for their disciples. Missionaries are always in charge, even when they have put themselves in dominated position.

The film is full of symbolically elaborated loud slaps – Mdm Verdurin, who cannot close her jaws because she laughs too much, Mdm Combremer whose body is obsessively moving following the rhythm of music being played at de Guermantes pompous party, Swann who is kissing the orchid on Odette’s corsage (Schlondorff makes one of the orchid’s petals look as if it is Swann’s stretched tongue), de Charlus who “revenges” the old valet standing at the salon’s door (who is doing his job of reminding the late guests not to enter the concert hall) by playfully and rudely catching his nose with his fingers or poking it, or Oriane de Guermantes who while rushing because of being late to an important dinner party put black shoes with her red dress and has to change shoes by insistence of her husband, and Swan who is sexually penetrating the prostitute while smoking, and many more examples.

“Swann in Love” is entertaining as only a high education can be – entertaining for the human mind which didn’t forget its soul, and for a human soul which is inseparable from its mind. It is a visual symphony of caustic analysis of human behavior.

Schlondorff and Sven Nykvist (in a profile, on the left) prepare to shoot a scene with de Charlus and Swann entering the de Guermantes’ party.

Inflamed by the rumors about Odette’s lesbian laisons, Swann takes the prostitute who may know facts about Odette’s past.

De Charlus’ magnificent posturing and gesturing intended to make him irresistible seducer and eroticized missionary.

De Forcheville works on Odette to the horror of Swann who sees them from another corner of the diningroom. But Odette noticed his gaze, more, she is stimulating Swann’s jealousy and worries.

Mdm Verdurin was laughing too long and too passionately and now cannot close her jaws without medical help.

Madame Swann, previous Odette de Crecy, the mother of Gilberte (the future daughter in law of the Duc and Duchess de Guermantes)

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

Posted on Nov, 5 ’17 –   Duchesse de Guermantes And Charles Swann Feel Themselves Before Death – From Volker Schlondorff’s “Un Amour de Swann/Swann In Love” (1984) by Acting-Out Politics