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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.
To the right, 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.

Stills from the film TOTAL ECLIPSE:
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