Jules Verne’s novel of the same name provides the loose inspiration for the story of Delphine (Marie Rivière), a dreamy, introverted young secretary who, reeling from a breakup with her boyfriend, faces the anxiety-inducing prospect of spending her summer vacation alone. Eric Rohmer captures the ache of summertime sadness with exquisite poignancy in this luminous tale of self-exploration.
“Strolling down a country road, a small patch of blue surrounded by the gently weaving verdure, Delphine finds herself quietly sobbing–a breathtaking vision of quotidian despair that gives lie to the image of the director as a low-key wordsmith, and showcases his close synergy with the main actress. (Rivière reportedly collaborated extensively with Rohmer in setting the tone of scenes, and the ensuing flares of improvisation seem to stimulate his delicate yet scalpel-sharp empathy toward the character.) A brush with a beaming Nordic siren, the sensuous grain of Sophie Maintigneux’s 16mm cinematography, a microcosm of signals – cards on the street, Jules Verne at the beach, Dostoyevsky at the train station – fused together in a spark of metaphysical illumination: ‘A question of awareness,’ that’s it. The final scene is the suspense sequence of the decade, a miracle at sunset where, like Ingrid Bergman confronting the Stromboli volcano, Rohmer’s heroine gazes directly out at the world and within herself and receives the deliverance of self-recognition. Her tears are ours.”
Fernando F. Croce1
“I was very, very liberated, very, very personally liberated, the day I realized that what I had expected from cinema, what I had loved in cinema, and what cinema had given, was the invention of time, starting with mine. Inventing a time in which I might live, but which is also somebody else’s time, and not the image, very much. In fact, I’m not very good with images. For example, the thing I see last in a film is the Director of Photography. For me, there are people who say ‘Le Rayon Vert, it’s wonderful, but what’s he doing with 16mm, Rohmer’s crazy, it’s not professional!’ I want to slap them. I tell them, ‘Go back home. Cinema isn’t that, cinema is time. If you’re not sensitive to the fact that Rohmer invents times that only he invents…’”
“Like all Rohmer’s films, The Green Ray presents scarcely anything beyond an account of a few well-chosen human interactions. But he discovers (or uncovers) a new looseness and inventiveness that is sheer magic to behold. A moment of magic is also what the film is about, and what its main performer (the divine Marie Rivière) circles endlessly and ultimately finds. To find and capture the fleeting, to know the fruit of freedom in that moment: this is the miracle that Rohmer himself performs in The Green Ray. The film is a great gift to its audience, impossible to refuse.”