A DD Films print screened with e-subtitles in Finnish by Kristina Haataja, operated by Lena Talvio, at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Marguerite Duras), 12 April 2014
The India trilogy (La Femme du Gange, India Song, son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert) has a central place in the film oeuvre of Marguerite Duras. Their objective was to "destroy" her three India novels. The literary basis is strong, yet the films are arrestingly visual. The soundtrack has been severed entirely from the visuals.
Revisited Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert, Marguerite Duras's piece of radically avantgardistic cinema, extremely reduced, discarding visible acting performances. It is an audio play with a separate image track. The action of the film: Marguerite Duras plays back the soundtrack of India Song (1975, only the very ending is different) while the cameraman wanders around and inside Château Rothschild. Slowly the soundtrack grows into mesmerizing power and intensity. Towards the end there is the only episode with visible people, almost motionless, like reflections, or zombies.
The name of the film - "Her Venetian Name in the Calcutta Desert" - refers to the desperate scream of M. Stretter: "Anne!" Equally unforgettable as "Stella!" in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Château Rothschild has been getting dilapidated since WWII, carrying scars of German occupation and terror, and Allied administration afterwards.
The traumata of history are reflected both in the audio play (India) and in the disparate visuals (the Rothschild ruins).
In India Song, Anne-Marie Stretter sleeps under the open sky and drowns in the morning into the sea whose fog reminds her of Venice and her lost youth.
At the end of Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert we leave the ruined castle. We see the sea, the sun, the empty beach. We watch the sunset in real time. The new audio starts here. Two male voices talk about the beggar woman from Savannaket at Mekong (where Anne-Marie first attempted suicide after a dying child had been left at her doorstep).
Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert is like a haunting incantation, a prose poem about solitude, despair, and desolation.
Not only the voice track but also the score composed and compiled by Carlos d'Alessio gains a new force in this "remake". There is his "India Song Blues", of course. There are the Indian chants of the beggar woman. There is a tango. There is Latin dance music. There is 1920s-style film music, reminiscent of hit songs from What Price Glory? And there is Beethoven's Diabelli variation for the piano, the "grave e maestoso".
Tytti Rantanen wrote an excellent programme note for our screening. Her sources: Laure Adler: Marguerite Duras. Paris: Gallimard, 1998. - Maurice Blanchot: "La littérature et le droit à la mort" in La Part du Feu (1949). Paris: Gallimard, 1972, p. 293–331.
The print looked fine to start with, but there appeared like a reflection on the image, and then there was no deep black left. As there seemed to be nothing wrong in the projection, and there were no problems in our other 35 mm projections, the mysterious veil seemed to be a defect of the print.