What You Need To Know:
The camera work in this movie is extraordinary. There is some degree of prolixity in the lingering nature of the memories, but it is interesting to note that everything is extremely discreet, and most of the sexual references will only be understood by those sophisticated enough to pay close attention. This is not an easy movie, but there are some very fine, moral points. TIME REGAINED is a beautiful insight into the godless human condition. Though well produced, TIME REGAINED is ultimately nihilistic, but in the same sense that the author of Ecclesiastes despairs of life
(HH, L, S, N, A, D, M) Humanist worldview with some minor moralizing; 2 obscenities with very discreet discussion of sex & homosexuality; no violence; very discreet, implied adultery & homosexuality with one slightly, more obvious scene in what could be a male house of prostitution, & off-camera sado-masochism; classical statues disrobed; alcohol use; smoking & reference to painkilling drugs; and, gossip, class envy, jealousy, & a preoccupationwith death.
As a novelist, French writer Marcel Proust broke new ground with his stream of consciousness writing. Not only did he write the world’s longest sentence, 968 words, but he also switched between the present and the past, between dreams and reality with seemingly casual meticulousness. In the process, he deeply influenced the 20th Century and his contemporaries, such as James Joyce (ULYSSES).
TIME REGAINED is based on his autobiographical book REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST, which also can be translated IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME. Written over many years, this book took final form and substance only as Proust lay dying in 1922. As the book took on a life of its own, his life expired. If the nature of the book had to be summarized, it would be as a long exposition on Solomon’s reflection in Ecclesiastes that “ all is vanity.”
As a Jew from a wealthy family who was a sickly child and man, Proust was always a stranger in the very strange land of French high society. The movie beautifully captures his memories of the people who made up that society before and during World War I. Among them are Gilberte, whom he loved as a child, and who is married to Saint-Loup. Saint-Loup has been unfaithful to her with Rachel, a prostitute, and has a male lover, Morel, who eventually goes off to the war. Proust also loved Odette, who has been romantically involved with many of the rich and snobbish members of high society. Then there is Albertine, who is almost a ghost herself, and the eloquent though perverse homosexual, Baron de Charlus. These and many more characters inhabit Proust’s memories. Sometimes his memories capture them in one way, and then later in a different way in the same situation. At all times, the vanity of these people’s situations is clear: they are trapped in their own ennui.
It is clear that death is a hope for escape from the shallow, artificial society in TIME REGAINED, thus recalling the very essence of Solomon’s argument in Ecclesiastes. The pathos of these men and women cheating on each other verbally and physically is heightened by their lack of hope. They need Jesus Christ, but He is nowhere to be found in this movie. Their society is struggling with extinction, or, as the Baron de Charlus says, “mort.” Regrettably, there are many societies just like this today.
The camera work in this movie is extraordinary. Although it involves some complex memory patterns, the camera work guides the audience and highlights the fine threads of the ephemeral story. There is some degree of prolixity in the lingering nature of the memories, but it is interesting to note that everything is extremely discreet, and sexual references, as well as homosexual content, will only be understood by those sophisticated enough to pay close attention, though there is some degree of obviousness in a house of male prostitution. There is not enough blatancy, however, to arouse the questions of a curious child, though it might offend the sensibilities of those who are not desensitized. There are also some very fine, moral points, including the fact that Marcel Proust, with subtlety, ignores the homosexual Morel in one of the soirees. Marcel’s attitude implies and evokes some moral perspectives, but he never proclaims them. He does proclaim, however, that death is welcome, and thus the movie is ultimately nihilistic, but in the same sense that the author of Ecclesiastes despairs of life.
TIME REGAINED is not a movie for the gourmand, but a movie for the gourmet. Even so, the “all is vanity” theme does not lift one’s heart and soul, and so the gourmet may yearn for a little more seasoning in such a beautiful, artistic piece. For those who want to understand the vacuousness of our contemporary culture, TIME REGAINED is a beautiful, ephemeral insight into the empty and godless human condition in the early 21st Century. It makes one hope for revival.