Life in the limelight

Va Savoir

Directed by Jacques Rivette

(Jeanne Balibar, Sergio Castellitto, Marianne Basler, Jacques Bonnaffe)



Perhaps all of the world is a stage, it’s just that Paris is an especially good one for staging a romantic comedy. Paris provides the backdrop for Va Savoir-the latest film from New Wave critic/filmmaker Jacques Rivette-a film that explores the thin line that separates the fictional world that the actor works in from the real world that the actor lives in. Can the two ever be mutually exclusive?

From the opening scene of Va Savoir we get a sense of this dichotomy in an actor’s life. Camille (Jeanne Balibar)-playing the old actress-playing-an-actress trick-steps out of complete blackness into a single beam of light on the stage. Appearing out of nowhere, Camille represents the fictional character that the audience sees in a play, a character with no history outside of the narrative, with no context aside from what the script dictates.

Suddenly the house lights go on and the illusion is destroyed. Camille falls out of character and assumes her own personality. The transition from the fictional world to the real world is complete. Or is it?

Throughout the film, little snippets of the play are poignantly inserted to illustrate how an actor’s life often mirrors their work, and vice versa. The point is also driven home by Camille’s real-life soliloquies, which she often delivers alone on an empty stage, underscoring the irony of the situation: An actor playing a fictional character in a narrative, playing an actor playing a fictional character in a narrative. I’m exhausted.

Va Savoir is a love hexagon between three Parisian men and three Parisian women, which leaves endless comedic possibilities that the film takes advantage of nicely. The most entertaining scene involves two men who are both in love with Camille. Instead of the traditional duel at high noon, the two equip themselves each with a bottle of vodka and meet on a catwalk that hangs above the stage. The first one to get drunk enough to fall off loses.

The film’s ending, which is so patently happy that the film begins to border on farce, returns to the overall theme of the film as the song “Sensa Fina” (Without an End) plays in the background. Unlike in real life, characters in a play (or a film) never really die, but are reborn with each successive production.



Va Savoir opens today at the Lagoon Cinema.