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Bishops Castle Film Society

Triple Agent - 25 October 2017

Eric Rohmer, Fr/It/Sp/Gre/Rus, 2004, 115m

There are few more celebrated French directors of the modern period than Eric Rohmer (1920-2010). His films are cerebral, meditative, philosophical – ‘contes moraux’ (moral tales), as they have been described. As with the English novelist Graham Greene, Rohmer’s work might be understood as a personal reflection on  the Catholic faith. ‘His films’, it has been said, ‘are big on talking and short on action.’ The memorable My Night With Maud (1969), set in a snowy Clermont-Ferrand, seems best to sum up Rohmer’s approach. Triple Agent, his penultimate film is, on the surface, very different: a political thriller, which begins in Paris just before the outbreak of war in 1939 and moves on to the subsequent German occupation. It has Russian emigres who are spying for the USSR and possibly also the Germans. A man vanishes without trace and a murder forms the mystery in a plot that is somewhat complicated. The film offers no easy solutions to the story being told. This is intentional. Rohmer wanted the audience to think for themselves about the political issues that converge in the story and the moral implications they convey.

"Triple Agent, Rohmer claims, is typical of his oeuvre: "All my films are spy films in a sense. They all deal with characters spying on others or being suspicious of others." But it is hardly James Bond? "True. Genre films don't interest me at all." Rohmer's scenario for Triple Agent was inspired by an enigmatic story he found in a historical journal about the abduction by the Soviets of a White Russian general called General Miller, the president of the Russian War Veterans. His deputy, General Skobline, a double agent working for the Bolsheviks, was suspected of having had a hand in the kidnapping. This could never be proved - he disappeared shortly afterwards, leaving his wife to take the rap. She was convicted as an accessory and died in prison in 1940. Did Skobline betray his wife? Did she know about the abduction? Whose side was Skobline really on? "There was nothing clear about the story, no certainty as to what happened or why, so it left me free to invent my own version of it," says Rohmer." [Stuart Jeffries, interview with Rohmer, Guardian, 26.2.2004]



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