Resnais' films, for the most part, concern memory and the relationship between the past and the present, and Muriel is one of the best examples of his art.
Hélène (Delphine Seyrig), an antique dealer who uses her own Boulogne-sur-Mer apartment as her showroom, lives with her stepson, Bernard (Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée). Both have had troubled pasts: Hélène survived the war, but lost, apparently, almost everything else. Bernard, who served in Algeria, is troubled my events of that war, including the torturing of a young Algerian girl, Muriel, in which he passively participated; the girl was eventually murdered by other members of his platoon, led by Robert, who has also returned to Boulogne-sur-Mer.
She closed her eyes and vomited...Robert backed away. I left them. I
came back to see her that night, raised the cover...Like she'd been long
in water...a ripped-open sack of potatoes...blood all over her, in her hair...
burns on her breasts...Her eyes were not shut...I didn't feel much, nothing
at all perhaps. I went to bed...slept well. Next day before Reveille....
Into this troubled family comes Alphonse Noyard, an former lover of Hélène's, a man with whom she is still in love. Throughout the film they subtly blame each other for the failure of the relationship which might have ended in marriage while feebly attempting to rekindle their feelings for one another. With Alphonse comes Françoise, portraying herself as his niece, but who, in fact, is Alphonse's lover.
Los Angeles, December 7, 2009