The French do mind trippy fantastic science fiction surrealism in film with ease. Just check 1965’s Neo Noir sci-fi Alphaville and snappy 1962 time travel short film La Jetee. Amazingly creative, thoughtful science fiction. Here’s another sixties onslaught attack on your precious grey matter cells. From director Alain Resnais and his 1968 film Je t’aime, Je t’aime (I Love You, I Love You).
Scientists have succeeded in breaking the time travel code. Well, it’s worked in their experimental studies with mice. Successfully sending one mouse back in time, one minute. The problem is the mouse can’t tell them it went back or what it was like! And let’s be honest is a mouse even going to know it went back one whole minute? What they need is a human subject.
In walks, well arrives in a bed, Claude Ridder (Claude Rich). For Claude has been deeply depressed. He’s lost the will to live. He’d committed suicide but failed. Recovered from his injuries, he is still lost in a dark depressed state. With no love for life. The scientists are quietly happy, have they found the perfect guinea pig? It seems so.
As Claude is guided around the secret laboratory the scientists reveal in great depth what they have planned for him and the manner of their experiments. Claude is intrigued and inquisitive whilst being emotionally detached from the reality put before him. A mouse being pushed through time and space is science fiction right? And besides he has nothing else better to do. Even with the warning the experiment could kill him! It’s safe to say Claude was pretty calm about the whole thing.
Maybe second thoughts past through his mind as he walked into the cosmic blob machine. A few air ducts lead out alongside a collection of wires connecting computers, readers and dials. The scientists look on. Claude is given a sedative. His body sleeps, his mind is lucid. The seat is body formed, it’s comfy. He’s not alone. One mouse in a glass sphere is his travel companion. They are going back together?
The thing is Claude has baggage. Emotional baggage. There was a reason he’d attempted suicide. A girl. A girl you can’t live with and you can’t live without. Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot). Beautiful and quirky. He’d fallen in love. She was strangely different, nonconforming. Exciting but only for sometime. Catrine suffers depression, fear of death, she’s a hypochondriac. She’s sullen, morose and melancholy. And Claude, well he’s at the best of times grumpy, snappy and unhappy. Maybe not the perfect combination for a loving relationship.
His four minute trip in the machine pod takes an unexpected turn. Throwing Claude back through different fragmented sections of his life. From meeting Catrine, falling in love. To reliving experiences past and present, surreal and linear. Pockets of times leaking out in different played out circumstances. Past events tweaked and turned. Cut and pasted life. Imagine a living scrapbook opening at random pages in the wind. Claude is self aware in the machine. A year feels like a second. Time is lost.
What will happen to Claude? Will the scientists understand their machine? Will Catrine be ok? Can their relationship be repaired? Will the mouse be able to tell his tale? Je t’aime, Je t’aime is on Youtube to stream if you fancy it. *Click on the cog to add subtitles.
- It sounds like Je t’aime, Je t’aime was ready to be included in the 1968 Cannes Film Festival where it would of no doubt received great buzz. But unfortunately it got caught up in countrywide protests and strikes across France. Incidentally meaning it received limited viewing and was later thankfully rediscovered and distributed.
- Let me know if you’ve seen this one. What did you think? I don’t know the director Alain Resnais work at all. I hear he’s much loved. Hiroshima Mon Amour sounds like a perfect place for me to next explore his works. Feel free to point me in the right direction.
It’s a wildly inventive film which scores very well on the Wolfy meter. It’s not for everyone though. If you can let your mind and imagination go with it, I’m sure you will enjoy it very much. The soundtrack of human voices gives off a feeling of foreboding dread. Interacting scenes throw you a curveball between times and events, past and future. Oh and lookout for Bath Girl, she’s a surreal delight. It’s highly original and being French seems to give it a certain look and feel. Pushes it into the leftfield, off-center. It’s quirky. Je l’ai aimé.
Thanks for joining me, Mikey Wolf, on my science fiction month.