"Je T'aime, Je T'aime," Directed by Alain Resnais

"Je T'aime, Je T'aime"

Directed by Alain Resnais
Playing at the Charles Theater Oct. 4, 6, and 9

This 1968 film's title, "Je T'aime, Je T'aime," translated into English is "I love you, I love you," which suggests that what you are about to watch very well could be a sappy French romance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, director Alain Resnais' film is a futuristic psychological drama and a deep dive into the disturbing nuances of a damaged relationship and the suicidal mind.

We begin near the end with the entrance of our brooding main character, Claude Ridder (Claude Rich). He is exiting the hospital after a suicide attempt a few days prior. Outside of the hospital, a group of men show up to take him to Crespel Research Center. He handles his quietly forceful capture with an indifference reminiscent of Albert Camus’ Meursault. The man in charge of Crespel explains that they study time, and because of Claude’s “fuck life” tendencies, he is their ideal candidate. He will be transported into the past via a large brain-like vessel that they call Nero. Here Resnais nods to the hokeyness of contemporary science fiction by including a giant brain straight out of a B movie shocker playing at the drive-in, but he also tastefully obscures Nero in shadows. Simply slapping the sci-fi label on “Je T’aime, Je T’aime,” as many websites do, is far too hasty and undermines the real gravity of its plot. 
Claude is promised that the trip back in time will last only a minute. But at the one-minute mark, the scientists declare him “lost,” and Claude is left to bounce from memory to memory. What follows is an hour-long montage of Claude’s memories in which we witness  his relationship with his girlfriend Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot) grow for a time and then shrink into one-sided dependence and eventually indifference on her part. Viewers must resist getting too caught up in the flashy, fractured narrative and keep in mind that Claude has just survived a suicide attempt. And in Claude’s selfish eyes, Catrine is the direct cause of that suicide attempt. 
His memories are surely biased or altered from how events in their relationship actually occurred and it’s important to stress that the version of their relationship we witness—that’s to say, which memories are allowed to surface and when—is also possibly being decided by the men who kidnapped him and sent him into the past and then got him lost in time. But one thing is for sure: Claude was fixated on Catrine, and his fixation eventually pushed her away. And what they had, because of Claude’s obsession, wasn’t actually love at all.