Eric Rohmer releases a restless spirit in Delphine (Marie Rivière), a Parisian secretary who finds herself embracing ‘les grandes vacances’ alone. Travelling between family, friends, the mountains and finally Biarritz, Delphine carries an uneasy solitude, looking for a sign that will lead her to a ‘real connection’ with someone.
Released in 1986, Le Rayon Vert is the fifth film of Eric Rohmer’s Comedies and Proverbs series. It is almost entirely improvised. Inspired by Rivière herself, the story and the dialogue are the result of her creative collaboration with Rohmer, for which she is given a full writing credit. There is a seamless harmony between the professional and non-professional actors, as Delphine moves from scene to scene, engaging in conversation and musing on holiday destinations, boyfriends and vegetarianism.
Delphine’s friends have her best interests at heart. Béatrice (Béatrice Romand) takes the direct approach: ‘you can’t accept your loneliness. No one can live alone forever,’ while Rosette’s Françoise reserves judgment and lightly encourages her to be a bit more adventurous with men. The meandering dialogue is relaxing, like a holiday hammock: the characters’ thoughts roam free on a coastal wind, unshackled by the demands of work.
Rivière’s Delphine wears no mask: she is as emotionally fragile as she is independent and uncompromising, and Rohmer allows this difference to flourish. Delphine is fussy, she doesn’t like many things, yet she believes in her ‘personal superstitions,’ the significance of finding playing cards on the street, and that a medium-friend of hers said that ‘green’ is her colour of the year (and the colour of hope).
Later, Delphine overhears a conversation between a group of adults discussing the novel ‘The Green Ray’ written by Jules Verne who says that if you see a rare green ‘ray’ at sunset, as the sun dips below the horizon, in that same moment ‘you can read your own feelings and others too.’ This gives Delphine faith that she will find love, yet, paradoxically, at the same time, it sharpens her awareness of her inadequacies and inability to find it on her own. ‘If I had something to give, people would see it. If I am dumped it has to be my fault.’
Delphine’s disarming honesty makes us want to shelter her, and we have huge respect for her conviction, her faith that drives her forward, even though the decision to do so, alone, makes life difficult. Loyalty to belief is Rohmer’s trademark and Delphine is perhaps its most magical and charming expression.
Director: Eric Rohmer
The Green Ray is available to buy at the British Film Institute online shop: http://shop.bfi.org.uk/seasons/green-ray-the.html#.VV-R30v2dFI