two women looking at a sculpture of a woman

La Captive

Directed by Chantal Akerman.
With Sylvie Testud, Stanislaus Merhar, Olivia Bonamy.
France, 2000, DCP, color, 118 min.
French with English subtitles.
DCP source: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique

Another emphasis on the idea of the masculine incorporation, or theft, of the feminine can be seen in a film by Chantal Akerman based on (“inspired by” the credits say) Proust’s La Prisionnière. Her film is entitled La Captive, a literal translation back into French of the English translation of Proust’s title. In a round table discussion after a screening of the film, while considering the color or shape given to the concept of love by the, let’s call it, absolute compliance of the Albertina character to the wishes of the Marcel character, Akerman spoke of the man of the pair as a vampire, who in effect has already taken the woman’s life before her actual accidental or suicidal death. [...] In the Proustian vampire the man interprets his obsession with the details of the woman’s existence as his love for her. [...] Love as possession, expressed as knowledge, is a way of putting the obsessive force of Marcel’s quest in La Prisonnière. The fact that both the Proust novel and [George Cukor’s 1944 film Gaslight] picture the object of knowledge as one that has to be kept captive, and the captor accordingly becomes captive to his captive, is a tip to my mind that we have here a contribution to the architecture of skepticism. [...] In a film, unlike a painting or sculpture or piece of theater, we are given (captivated by) a forever fixed, captured, image of a human being in this precise environment, in these precise attitudes and relations, remaining silent or saying precisely these words in this way. [...] To say that Gaslight and La Captive both explore the condition of the camera’s invasiveness or power of surveillance or vampirism is meant to imply that no way is dictated in which film’s conditions are explored by film, and that the discovery of more and less fruitful and original and beautiful ways of exploration, it is the obligation of criticism to respond to and to articulate. If such criticism were thought of, with pleasure, as philosophical, that would be a satisfaction to me. – Stanley Cavell, Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life, 2004

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