The Immortal One 1962
101 mins France Director. Alain Robbe-Grillet
The debut feature from famed the revered novelist and screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet is a daring examination of fantasy and memory. A French professor holidaying in Istanbul meets a beautiful and alluring woman. She seems to be in trouble and suggests she’s involved in a conspiracy to kidnap prostitutes. But when she disappears and nobody seems able to confirm her existence, the professor doesn’t know whether to doubt the people around him or his own memory.
The Immortal One finds Robbe-Grillet playing the same games around mistrustful memories and narrative dislocation as in his script for the French New Wave classic, Last Year in Marienbad. But unlike the director of that film, Alain Resnais, Robbe-Grillet is comfortable employing conventional genre tropes from mystery and detective fiction, resulting in a film that feels much more accessible than Resnais’ famed head-scratcher, while retaining its enigmatic allure.
After the success of Marienbad, Robbe-Grillet was keen to direct his own film but struggled to find funding. Eventually a Belgian producer agreed to invest in a project, as long as it exploited trapped funds from an earlier Turkish production, which had to be spent in the country. Robbe-Grillet complied and used Turkey’s air of exoticism to enhance his dreamlike fantasy, centring the plot on his French protagonist’s inability to converse with the locals.