Thursday, 29 April 2010


René and Suzanne are on their honeymoon in a château the Cévennes, a romantic mountainous setting in the Massif Central. During their holiday, the couple visits the cinema to watch a comedy called Onésime The Vagabond, in which René spots a woman he believes to be Suzanne linking arms with another man. Rather than confront Suzanne, René procures a copy of the reel to examine later on, which serves to fuel his paranoia. Once back at the château, René obsessively rifles through his new wife’s possessions, but finds nothing. When Suzanne mysteriously leaves the château, René finds a loving letter addressed to her from a man named Roger, which confirms his suspicions, and he hatches a dastardly scheme which is to change the couple’s lives forever.

Tragic Error, though presumably not intended to be avant-garde at the time, sets the foundations for metacinema in its evocation of the third reality between the viewer and the film. René’s frantic perusal of the film reel reminds the viewer of cinema’s subliminal power – just a few frames of the film-within-a-film sets him into a panic which leads to a dramatic conclusion. To a modern audience, the film’s twist does not come as much of a surprise, but director Louis Feuillade nonetheless does a good job of working up suspense. René as a character is unpredictable and untrustworthy – that we see the film from his perspective means we uncover the mystery gradually without once considering Suzanne’s story. An intriguing short from the early master.

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