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.
Film Reviews & Critiques
New York Times Review
Review by Stan Schwartz
Scott Renshaw's Screening Room
Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)
Film.com (Tom Keogh)
Film.com (John Teegarden)
Film.com (Bruce Reid)
Washington Post (Hal Hinson)
Washington Post (Desson Howe)
Scouts (Henri Béhar)
Los Angeles Times
City Paper (Cindy Fuchs)
Urban Cinefile (Australia)
Detroit News (Susan Stark)
Men on Film
Chronicle (Marjorie Baumgarten)
The Sacramento Bee (Joe Baltake)
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner