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Total Eclipse (1995)

Cast: Joelle Balland, Leonardo DiCaprio, David Thewlis, more...
Director: Agnieszka Holland
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: New Line Home Video
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Costume Drama/Period Piece, Biopics, Gay & Lesbian, British Drama, UK, Features, Erotica
Running Time: 112 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

This historical drama, directed by Agnieszka Holland, focuses on the rocky relationship between the renowned 19th century French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a teenage wunderkind known for his rebelliousness against conventional society and his surrealistic writing. He disrupts the life of Verlaine (David Thewlis), a more conventional writer who is older and married to a dutiful young wife, Mathilde (Romane Bohringer). The drunken Verlaine is unkind to Mathilde, even though her father is providing him with a house and an income to live on while he pursues his writing. Rimbaud overwhelms Verlaine, mocking his conventionality, constantly disrupting his domestic life, and somehow attracting the maniacal love of the older man. ~ Michael Betzold, All Movie Guide

As Agnieszka Holland's second collaboration with Ed Harris, Copying Beethoven, opens in theaters, Steven Jenkins talks with the director about true stories and spiritual dimensions. Full article >>

GreenCine Member Reviews

Poetry and performance by philippe March 17, 2003 - 10:15 PM PST
3 out of 5 members found this review helpful
I'm loathe to knock this movie, which deals, with commendable audacity, with a most difficult subject matter: the tempestuous love affair of two titans of French poetry.  That DiCaprio should even have attempted to play the extraordinary Arthur Rimbaud, almost certainly the most prodigious poet Europe has produced, is to his credit; that David Thewlis should portray the (by comparison) only extremely talented Paul Verlaine with searing honesty very good too.  Romane Bohringer gives us a Mrs. Verlaine of terrible vulnerability, and Agnieszka Holland directs with great assurance.      

But where, O where, is the poetry, in this movie about two poets?  Here and there we're given a line or two, repeated admiringly by one character or other; we see characters scribbling and screaming, but never in this movie did I feel I was in the presence of anything like poetic genius.  We're told Rimbaud is a searchlight illuminating the future, but his verse, the little of it we get, sounds more like a candle flickering in a breeze.  And this is all the sadder when we realize what a gold mine of verse both these men bequeathed:

Je fais souvent ce rêve étrange et pénétrant
D'une femme inconnue, et que j'aime, et qui m'aime,

I often dream a strange penetrating dream
Of a woman I do not know, and whom I love, and who loves me;

--Verlaine, Mon rêve familier (My Recurring Dream)

How eloquent these lines!  How much they tell us about Verlaine!  And yet this man, who found ways to describe his love of a woman in a way that nearly every French schoolboy repeats, is reduced in this movie to talking about love in a prosy way, as if he were a babysitter and not a poet of power.  References to Rimbaud's poems, like Le Dormeur du val (The Sleeper in the Vale), appear here and there, but are overshadowed with casual bantering about love, with sex in several flavors, with the smashing of this and the smashing of that.  Hélas ... hélas.  

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 5.61)
64 Votes
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