I’ve forgotten the words with which to tell you. I knew them once, but I’ve forgotten them, and now I’m talking to you without them.
Marguerite Duras, Emily L.
A memory piece that calls up the dead, its heroine, Anne-Marie Stretter (Delphine Seyrig), dances with her lover, Michael Richardson (Claude Mann), in the ballroom of the French Embassy in Calcutta, where her memorial—a photograph, a stick of burning incense, some flowers—is already arranged on the piano. Time folds in on itself in India Song, and space is fractured by the huge mirror that nearly covers one wall so that the reflection of the room is a constant; it is always different, however, from the framing of the room by the camera, whether still or moving. The image created by Duras and cinematographer Bruno Nuytten is at once ghostly and eroticized, so delicately colored that it seems hand-tinted, and the closeness of the air, weighted by the insufferable heat, is palpable. India Song puts all the senses on high alert, and yet it is not in any sense realism. No one would be surprised to learn that it was shot on a set constructed in a crumbling mansion near Paris.
I’m leaving tomorrow. This is my first trip to India and all the images I have are the ones that never show you India just the dreamlike state of decadence of what has been lost.
Photos and References
The Ghosts of Parties Past: Exorcising India Song