10 October 2004 | bernd-boesel
Curious step backwards
If you've seen other films by Jacques Rivette, you might wonder, just as I do, what this Victorian novel adaptation was all about. If you've seen other films by this unique director - especially "Celine and Julie go boating" or newer ones like "Secret Defense" and "Histoire de Marie et Julien" - this mid-eighties try just doesn't fit.
Take the 1974 masterpiece "Celine and Julie" for comparison. In it, two very open-minded young women (both practitioners of different kinds of "magic") get tangled in a mysterious old-fashioned love triangle story, taking place in a archetypal haunted (Victorian) house. When they figure out that the 10-year old daughter of the house-owner is going to get murdered out of love madness, they decide to sneak into the house and rescue her.
The thing is, you know from the beginning that the pathetic melodrama in the haunted house is not real in the sense that Celine and Julie are. It's rather they invented the whole story just to kill time & have some fun with out-dated storytelling. It's essentially a illustration of what is called "deconstruction". The melodrama just serves as something that can be manipulated or even laughed at. Rivette (respectively, Celine and Julie) play very freely with a kind of narrative that doesn't seem to work anymore.
Unfortunately, "Hurlevent" has just the feeling of the haunted house sequences of the earlier movie - and that means, the characters are not likable, seem like marionettes, bloodless, dull. It completely lacks the light-hearted (though very intellectual) sophistication that made "Celine and Julie" so enjoyable. Maybe Rivette wanted it just like that. Even if this is so, it doesn't make sense for me.