October 2018, arsenal cinema

On the Critique of Political Film: LA MARSEILLAISE (Jean Renoir, France 1938)


40 years after the publication of his book “Zur Kritik des Politischen Films: 6 analysierende Beschreibungen” (On the Critique of Political Film: 6 Analyzing Descriptions), we have invited author Peter Nau to present one of the six films described within it. LA MARSEILLAISE is the chronicle of several events that led to the fall of the monarchy. According to Jean Renoir, historical films are those that pretend to take place in the past. LA MARSEILLAISE on the other hand conveys history in the present tense. Truffaut saw the film as being akin to a montage of newsreels from that era. Instead of a closed narrative, the film offers meticulously composed images of specific scenes that are clearly separated from one another. Renoir called it a “film d’idée” (a film of ideas”). According to Renoir, it was about humanizing historical personalities such as Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette etc., that is, to avoid clichés, and to convey an impression of direct life. (pn). (9.10., introduction: Peter Nau)