In 1799 Russian general Souvarof spearheads the invasion of Italy. Left alone as her father commands a force in the thick of battle against the Russians the beautiful young widow the Marquis of O is captured and violated by Count F a Russian lieutenant she mistook for her saviour. Unconscious at the time of the attack she has no recollection of events and only when she begins to experience strange feelings and sensations does she realise that she may be carrying Count F's child..
"The Marquis of O" is a somewhat uncharacteristic film for Eric Rohmer. As opposed to his modern romantic chronicles, this is a historical drama, and largely absent is the quick wordplay and exploration of the emotional/intellectual divide that usually define his style. The style of this film is somewhat flatter, more formal and less naturalistic in its dialogue. The visual style is also lusher and more clearly defined than in any of his other films, all rich yellows and golds with gorgeous candle lighting shimmering in every interior scene. The story follows a young noblewoman who has inexplicably gotten pregnant; her parents naturally assume she has betrayed their reputation with unsuitable behavior, though the girl has done nothing. The pregnancy's origin is quite obvious to the audience nearly from the beginning -- it's implied in an early scene -- but Rohmer keeps his characters utterly ignorant. The result is a strange, faintly absurdist melodrama blended with a comedy of manners. The humor is played with a completely straight face, so it's easy to miss, but it's nonetheless a very satisfying and intriguing film. The DVD has the best image of Arrow's Rohmer series, perfectly capturing the sumptuous visuals.
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