Postcolonial Memory, Masculinity, and Film: Alain Resnais’s Absent Muriel

TitlePostcolonial Memory, Masculinity, and Film: Alain Resnais’s Absent Muriel
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsQuinan, Christine

This essay analyses Muriel (1963), the third feature-length film from Alain Resnais, which attempts to make sense of a fragmented past and present that have been torn apart by international wars and domestic conflicts. The film highlights the multitude of silences and amnesias surrounding the French–Algerian War and its remembrances (or lack thereof) as the nation struggled to come to terms with colonial guilt. After mapping out the ways in which representations of destruction and rebuilding around both the French–Algerian War and the Second World War inform Muriel, the essay goes on to examine how form and content subtly reveal memory and masculinity as being tied up in this postwar, postcolonial identity crisis, exemplified by the visual absence of Muriel, an Algerian woman who was tortured and killed by a French Army unit during the war. Although the torture scene is not represented visually, its haunting presence exemplifies how the Algerian female body functioned as a screen onto which French men could project their anxieties around colonial power and masculinity. While the visual absence of torture and the title character is a glaring omission, it is one that could be also interpreted as obliquely addressing issues at the heart of the Franco-Algerian conflict, including censorship, torture and war crimes.

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