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  • Dire, redire et ne pas dire: enjeux du dialogue filmique dans les 'Contes des quatre saisons' (É. Rohmer) by Carmen Alberdi
  • Fiona Handyside
Dire, redire et ne pas dire: enjeux du dialogue filmique dans les 'Contes des quatre saisons' (É. Rohmer). Par Carmen Alberdi. (Framing Film, 19.) New York: Peter Lang, 2017. xix +204 pp.

Éric Rohmer is well known for his defence of dialogue as central to his cinema. For Rohmer, speech as much as images are part of the life of the film: he does not tell us a story but shows it to us, and part of that showing is showing us people who speak. Rohmer defended his use of dialogue as both true to life and dramatic: 'les situations que je connais dans la vie sont des situations où l'on parle. Celles où on ne parle pas sont [End Page 642] exceptionelles' (quoted, p. x). As such, his corpus is ripe for the detailed linguistic attention that Carmen Alberdi brings to it as she analyses his dialogues through an interactional discourse-analysis framework. She offers a nuanced discussion of Rohmer's approach towards character and narrative in his Contes des quatre saisons (1990-98), as she considers this quartet of films to offer a crystallization of his interests explored in earlier series. She draws not only on discourse analysis, philosophy of language, and pragmatics to inform her approach, but also makes use of semiotics, narratology, textual analysis, and even the occasional foray into psychoanalysis; as she explains: 'cette pluralité constitue en effet le reflet d'une double hétérogénéité consubstantielle aussi bien au cadre de référence qu'à l'objet de l'étude' (p. xiii). The study is unusual, both in that linguistic analysis of fictional dialogue has tended to favour theatre rather than film, and that film analysis tends to neglect or ignore dialogue in favour of considering purely cinematic devices. Alberdi divides her approach into three main sections. In her first section, 'Dire', she considers how basic information — characters' names, the location where the story takes place, the timeframe of the story — is communicated to us. In the second, 'Redire', she discusses how Rohmer's characters make use of pre-existing dialogues, whether from stories, proverbs, or their own conversations. In the final section, 'Ne pas dire', she shows us the impact of pauses, silences, and lies. Above all, she demonstrates how carefully attuned the Rohmerian universe is to the rules that govern dialogue, and how these construct social and sexual behavioural norms. Rohmer's characters' complex and nuanced responses and reactions to these norms is key to understanding and analysing them. Rohmer's films demand high levels of engagement from his audiences as they must draw together the information being shown to them but also deduce motivations and ideas that may not even be clear to the characters themselves. Cinematic dialogue is pulled between the need to provide information, and the need to be realistic. Dialogue must avoid falling entirely into exposition, but neither must it imitate utterly the redundancies, spluttering, and incoherence of everyday talk. Alberdi's study provides further evidence, for Rohmer scholars and fans, of his remarkable ability to construct a universe that is both entirely plausible and yet brilliantly and uniquely Rohmerian.

Fiona Handyside
University of Exeter


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