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christopher hampton's total eclipse


"Sometimes he speaks, in a kind of dialect of death which causes repentance, of the unhappy men who certainly exist, of painful tasks and heart rendering departures."

-opening line from Hampton's stage version of Total Eclipse





Christopher Hampton's 1968 play about the poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine was, at long last, brought to theatrical screens in October of 1995. The film, directed by Agnieszka Holland ( Europa Europa, Olivier Olivier, The Secret Garden) proved to do less than well in America, perhaps due to its content as well as the rumored distribution problems with Fine Line Features.

The film, however, found a life of its own once released on video in the summer of 1996, mainly riding on its star power. Leonardo DiCaprio, of What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries and This Boy's Life fame, portrayed Rimbaud, while David Thewlis of Mike Nichols' fabulous Manchester film Naked played his lover, Verlaine. Much has been written about both actors' portrayal of the poets, the majority of it negative.

Romane Bohringer, David Thewlis and Leonardo DiCaprio

Below, you will find several critical reviews collected from throughout the internet. I, however, would suggest you check the film out yourself and come to your own conclusion. While, yes, there are many things to find fault with, there is very little cause for the type of negative articles that swamped this feature. It's worthy of a viewing, and it holds rather close to historical truths. As with any film based on something that many hold sacred, it is virtually impossible for a director or writer (Hampton wrote the screenplay as well) to capture the entire life of a person within a 120 minute time frame and not omit some details. It was Holland's (and Hampton's) intent to focus on the relationship between the two poets, which, naturally, left out a substantial amount of Rimbaud's literary works and endeavours.

If you're looking for a "historical" film, this may not prove to be your cup of tea. If you're looking for a tragedy, a love story or entertainment, Total Eclipse delivers this as best it could.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of this entire project was the amazing score by Jan A. P. Kaczmarek --- this disc is highly recommended.

A scene from the Total Eclipse script by Christopher Hampton:


MATHILDE lies in her brass double bed next to VERLAINE, in his nightgown, who is reading from a sheaf of manuscript poems written in a clear, bold hand. What he's reading at the moment, in fact, is Bateau Ivre.



Listen to this: "Sometimes I've seen what people think they've seen."


He's not how I imagined him.


"I've wept too many tears. Heartbreaking dawns. Each sun is a gall, each moon is misery . . ."


I prefer your poems. I don't really understand that kind of thing.


No. No, this is something new.


Official Archive Film Site

Filmmaker Bios

Film Reviews & Critiques

Movie Guide Database Review
Mr. Showbiz Review
New York Times Review
Urban Desires Review by Stan Schwartz 

Scott Renshaw's Screening Room
ReelViews (James Berardinelli)
Salon (Gary Kamiya)
Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert) (Joe Hartl) (Tom Keogh) (John Teegarden) (Bruce Reid)
Boxoffice Magazine

Washington Post (Hal Hinson)
Washington Post (Desson Howe)
Film Scouts (Henri Béhar)
Los Angeles Times
Dennis Schwartz <>

Greg King
Jam! Movies
Apollo Guide (Ed Gonzalez)
Philadelphia City Paper (Cindy Fuchs)
Urban Cinefile (Australia)

Detroit News (Susan Stark)
Men on Film
Austin Chronicle (Marjorie Baumgarten)
The Sacramento Bee (Joe Baltake)
Matt Easterbrook <>

San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner
Tempi Moderni





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