Public intellectuals and liberation of Rosemonde

Rosemonde is existentially a gifted girl from a poor family who is neglected by the culture, abused by people and exploited by the system that keeps her in mechanical job and cheap mindless entertainment. When the two impoverished intellectuals appear in her life she gradually starts to feel that she as if was waiting for them since her childhood. Relations with them make her understand her weaknesses and potentials and teach her to respect her humanity and be intellectually alert.

“The Salamander” is Tanner’s early attempt to find political meaning in personal friendship in an epoch when progressive political agenda becomes either petty and purely financially oriented or streamlined and dissolved into conformism.

The most fascinating aspect of the film is Tanner’s depiction of the creative process of trying to understand the world better as a part of personal relations. What was always considered as the function of the individual mind became the function of actual existential togetherness. We see how friendship and mutual support becomes the factor of intellectual development, how intellectual process can be not retrospectively but future-oriented and be the very living through existential conscience.

A substantial role in making the film so important belongs to three exceptional actors – Bulle Ogier, Jean-Luc Bideau and Jacques Denis. And the point here is not only that they are capable of playing the characters as formed by the conditions of their living and by their experience of thinking about their life, but that the actors themselves have a social, existential and political consciousness which they bring to their art.

We see here Rosemonde after quitting her job (while defending her dignity against loutish foreman) and facing a frightening uncertainty. The composition of the shot suggests the contrast between Rosemonde and her roommate (to the right) – between the director’s attention to a unique personality and a common character.

Rosemonde, not without her experience with her teachers – Paul and Pierre, is doing the impossible – parodying her haughty customer who is too solemnly occupied with consumerist ritual.

Rosemonde cannot believe how beautiful it is to be cared for by another human being (by Paul giving her a head massage).

Rosemonde is liberated and happy in spite of her uncertain destiny in the world

Pierre/Jean-Luc Bideau (on the left) and Paul/Jacques Denis are discussing in the freezing cold how to help Rosemonde

Paul (on the left) understood that Rosemonde has committed crime and lied about it, but this discovery will not change his and Pierre’s position towards her and their feeling of the necessity to help her.

On Jul 25, 2010 posted:   Alain Tanner’s “The Salamander” (1971) – One Liberated Human Face in the Crowd of Somnambular Shoppers  by Acting-Out Politics