Pauline à la plage

The third in the 1980s series “Comédies et Proverbes” by Rohmer. The proverb/opening quote from Chrétien de Troyes that establishes the theme A wagging tongue bites itself.” The quote introduces not only the conversational structure of Rohmer’s film (or the broader conventions of his character dramas in general), but also the various he said/she said situations, where gossip and hearsay are motivators for the plot.


“I’ve never burned for love, except in dreams, as girls do for a movie star, a prince, an athlete, a face glimpsed and never seen again. But it wasn’t love. I’ve probably set hearts aflame, but they belonged to people I didn’t care about so I never noticed. Men may have killed themselves over me. I hope not. If they did, I never found out. But strange as it may seem, one thing has never happened, to spark a love in myself and in another, instantly and reciprocally. But I don’t despair. It’ll happen one day, and suddenly I’ll go up in flames.”

Marion in Pauline à la plage1


Serge Daney: Have you ever written a character for a specific actor?

Eric Rohmer: Not really, no. I’m very lucky – I won’t say it’s a miracle, that’s too strong a word – but I am extremely lucky with my actors. The text that I’ve written suits them well. In [Pauline à la plage], it’s particularly clear: the actors have been almost impregnated by the text. They have made it theirs. In fact, I don’t really work with them and I have very little to do with that process. When people talk about my ‘relationships with my actors,’ I feel slightly embarrassed because it happens naturally. And I think it’s very important in the cinema to trust the natural movement of things, without trying to interfere too much. The default position in most films is that you interfere, that you want to put too much in front of the camera, to direct too much, and say too much. So, yes, on that point, I’m very ‘New Wave,’ like others, Godard for example, but in a less systematic way than him. And then there’s something else: most of my actors have also been directors, either in the theatre or in the cinema – Atkine, Dombasle, Rosette in Pauline. I like appealing to their intelligence.

Eric Rohmer in conversation with Serge Daney and Louella Interim2


“[Rohmer’s] strength comes from really observing the performers before they play the part, which he writes for them. He simply accentuates traits [...] Rohmer already knows the actors well when he re-works the dialogue; he uses a little of their syntax, all his genius is there. He notes the tics and habitual expressions in the actor’s language.”

Arielle Dombasle3

  • 1. Jacob Leigh, The Cinema of Eric Rohmer: Irony, Imagination, and the Social World (New York: Continuum, 2012), 109.
  • 2. Serge Daney and Louella Interim “Interview: Pauline at the Beach,” in Eric Rohmer interviews, red. Fiona Handyside. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2015), 67-68.
  • 3. Arielle Dombasle, “La Quadrature du cercle: Entretien avec Arielle Dombasle,” in Pauline à la plage d'Eric Rohmer, red. Carole Desbarats (Crisnée, Belgium: Éditions Yellow Now, 1990), 138-9.