I’m not sure what was the first Eric Rohmer film I have ever seen, but since I’ve started watching his films I’ve fallen in love for his simplicity, delicacy, and realism towards life. His characters are extremely human and the situations they come across talk a lot about human behavior, society, relationships, and principles. From the same movement as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, Rohmer went to a more conservative path, not only with politics but also with film, which doesn’t mean his work isn’t as good as his comrades – quiet the contrary. Eric Rohmer’s cinema has so many special elements that instead of publishing an article about the best Eric Rohmer’s films, I’ve decided to talk about the incredible things that make his films so great. Here is a special look at the special elements of Eric Rohmer’s mise en scene:
Rohmer and Empty Spaces
One of the most beautiful things about Eric Rohmer’s cinema is his awareness of space. The rooms, balconies and bathrooms where the characters spend time aren’t just a place where a scene happens but a small ambient which represents a part of the world where these characters live. With that, in almost every Eric Rohmer film we see shots of a room with no one inside, showing the mess or tidiness of the place where a character has passed by, telling us a little bit more about their personality and a sense of time within the story, adding depth to his films. A room isn’t just a room, but a part of a person’s soul.
Rohmer and People on Tables
There is a silly joke about French movies and people smoking cigarettes. In Eric Rohmer’s cinema, we could easily apply this to people gathered on tables on the outside. Since most of Rohmer’s film people are talking about their feelings and life itself, nothing better than to put your characters together on a table to do such something. Even though it’s a regular activity in our everyday lives, Eric Rohmer makes this insignificant moment to become something beautiful by putting his characters talking about themselves on the outside of a Renoir-like garden, adding an incredible sense of beauty and poetry to his films. And yes, sometimes they do that while they’re smoking a cigarette.
Rohmer and Telephones
This was the first element that got my attention throughout Eric Rohmer’s career. In every single film, we see a character talking on the phone. Most of Eric Rohmer’s films were shot during the 70s and 80s, so we didn’t have cellphones to text and anything similar. Here, the director embraces this form of communication and transforms it into a charm of its own, where major decisions and encounters are set through these scenes, which become quite beautiful and poetic by the eyes of Rohmer. If in regular movies these kinds of phones are seen as outdated, in Rohmer’s film they are one of the many elements that make these films so nice.
Rohmer and Reading
Another very interesting element is how the characters of Eric Rohmer are always reading. Being a writer himself, Rohmer must have spent a lot of his time reading and to put literature on his films through his characters added a certain charm to it, not mentioning extremely French. Boredom is one of the many themes of Rohmer’s body of work, so to show us these characters spending their times reading is one of the many incredible and realistic approaches to represent life and our daily routine.
Rohmer and Paris
As you can probably realize, I couldn’t find many images of Paris from Eric Rohmer’s stills. However, being a member of the nouvelle vague movement and a walker himself, Paris became one of the characters of his films by having people walking from one way to the other all the time. Most of Rohmer’s film happens on the outside and when we have the opportunity to watch a film that happens in Paris, (like Love in the Afternoon, Rendez-vous in Paris, The Aviator’s Wife) Rohmer shows the city in a very peculiar and beautiful way, always showing the suburbs and avoiding big places like the Champs-Elysee and Saint Germain des Pres, resulting in a very personal view towards the city he grew up in.
Rohmer and the Countryside
When Rohmer isn’t shooting Paris, he is in the countryside, making beautiful movies that inspired titles such as Call Me By Your Name, Before Sunset and Things to Come. That happens because Rohmer is a master on shooting the countryside and most of the scenes of his films looks like a Renoir or a Van Gogh painting, making his movies incredibly beautiful, poetic and hypnotic. With his incredible sense of space, Rohmer makes gardens, hills, mountains, and rivers one of the many characters on the film, adding to the film’s personality and message.
Rohmer and Legs
Quentin Tarantino is known for his foot fetish, but Rohmer has obviously proven his obsession with legs throughout his career. If making a film called Claire’s Knee wasn’t enough, we can clearly see several shots of legs and feet within Eric Rohmer’s body of work, from innocent shots of a woman talking on a telephone to post-morning sex scenes. It doesn’t matter if you are attracted to legs or not, these are one of the incredible elements that make Eric Rohmer’s cinema beautiful, amazing and sensual.
Rohmer and Architecture
And for last but not least, Eric Rohmer doesn’t focus his films much on architecture since most of them are shot on the countryside or at the beach. However, when he has the opportunity to show the modern buildings from the 80s, Rohmer doesn’t shy away and with his incredible sense of space, adds incredible shots of the city and the buildings that are part of it, embracing this type of art as he does with the books and paintings through his films.
This article was made with the help of images from the Instagram account Eric Rohmer Tout Jours, an amazing profile that post stills from Eric Rohmer’s movies daily that you should definitely follow. I haven’t watched all Eric Rohmer’s films, but my favorite so far is The Green Ray, My Night at Maud’s, Claire’s Knee, Pauline at the Beach and The Aviator’s Wife.
Here is a list of the movies from the pictures in order of appearance: La Collectionneuse (1967); Tale of Springtime (1990); Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987); Summer’s Tale (1996); The Green Ray (1986); Claire’s Knee (1970); Pauline at the Beach (1983); A Good Marriage (1982); Full Moon in Paris (1984); Love in the Afternoon (1972); Rendez-vous in Paris (1995).