Friday, January 23, 2015

Ma nuit chez Maud (My Night with Maud) (1969)

Director: Eric Rohmer
Writer:    Eric Rohmer
Cast:       Jean-Louis Trintignant, Francoise Fabian, Marie-Christine Barrault
Language: French

The rigid principles of a devout catholic, Jean-Louis (Trintignant), is challenged during a one-night stay with Maud (Francoise Fabian), a divorced woman with an outsize personality.

The film begins with Jean, an engineer and mathematician by profession, in a church noticing a blonde woman to whom he is attracted to and follows her into the streets. Later on that day he meets his philosophy teaching friend with whom he has not met for almost fifteen years. The friend takes him to Maud's house where the three have a conversation on religion, atheism, morality and Blaise Pascal's life and writings on philosophy, faith and mathematics. Jean ends up staying at her house for the night proceeding to have further conversation on his his catholic views on marriage, fidelity and his obligation for already proclaiming that he is in love with a young woman whom  however, he has never yet spoken to. 

This is the third one in Rohmer's 'Six Moral Tales' series and all of them have the  protagonist in love with a woman, but falls in love with another woman leading to a moral conundrum whose other side always will be the former one winning over the latter. In this film the morality is related to Jean-Louis' Catholicism. For him the ideal woman would be a blonde catholic but the second woman in this film is Maud, a brunette libertine. She is perturbed by Jean-Louis' lack of spontaneity and pre-conceived notions but nevertheless become great friends over the twenty-four hour period since they are not weighed down by expectations regarding the future. We later on learn that the catholic blonde woman  with whom he gets married to later was responsible for Maud's divorce. The final sequence of the film takes place five years later at a beach resort with Jean-Louis, happy with his wife and young son, meeting a visibly unhappy Maud who has married again without much success. It can be seen as another interpretation of the famous Pascal's wager but this time in relation to earthly happiness instead of heavenly redemption. The wager is as follows:

"It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that God exists or not. Given the possibility that God actually does exist and assuming an infinite gain or loss associated with belief or unbelief in said God (as represented by an eternity in heaven or hell), a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.)."

Pascal formulated this wager on a Christian framework and it was published posthumously in Pensees. I enjoyed the film very much even though I don't care much for Pascal's wager. The main distinction in it lies in the pleasures being finite on Earth and heaven/hell being infinite after death. It is all well and good but he  doesn't consider the possibility that most religions in the World have a vengeance fueled ego-maniacal and demanding asshole as God and even if you do live a 'Good Life', there is no guarantee that you would please the dude according to different scriptures about him. So I would rather live a life of freedom up to my death, after which there is nothing with a probability of 99.9% rather than live a life full of fear with a slight 0.0001% hope for heaven. He doesn't consider the fact that zero* infinity is also zero and if there is no life after death, then the freedom I get becomes infinite.

Rating: 4.5/5