We know he's lost something. He is, in fact, a chronic loser, always being beaten in the peculiar game he plays repeatedly with Sacha Pitoeff's character. That guy's invincibility tempts me to view him symbolically, but I catch myself when I start wondering whether he's Death or not, because then I know that I'm confusing L'Annee derniere a Marienbad with its nearly-coincidental counterpart, Herk Harvey's indie one-off wonder of 1962, Carnival of Souls. I'm not the first person to see and hear similarities (architecture, organ music, dancing), and I agree with those who doubt whether Harvey had a chance to see the Resnais before starting his own film.
Four faces of future Daughter of Darkness Delphine Seyrig in Last Year at Marienbad.
Instead, the two films seem to stem from a common zeitgeist stirring in western civ which seems to equate a compulsive sociability with at least a kind of death which the occasional alienated consciousness struggles to comprehend. Also, I'm tempted to think of death because of the double meaning of the English word "Last" as "final" as well as "previous." I don't know if "derniere" has the same ambiguity, but if so perhaps Marienbad might be seen as some kind of actual limbo instead of a figurative one.
Marienbad: the architecture of Hell? It looks like a helluva place to visit.
I think that's enough to suggest that Marienbad will give food for thought to any viewer who can stand being disappointed by a lack of straight answers. The producers promoted it as a puzzle film in which each viewer would collaborate in constructing the "real" narrative, so it really is up to each of us to figure the thing out for ourselves. All I can say definitively is that Marienbad is one of the ultimate expressions of black-and-white cinema, a spectacle of art direction that demands attention and rewards it even if you can't quite determine what's going on. If that's the same way I feel after watching some Italian gialli, that's probably no accident, since I can see Marienbad's influence on that genre (as well as on Kubrick's The Shining, I might add). Resnais's film is a textbook example of one in which style is substance, and anyone who honors cinema as a visual art owes it a look someday.
The original French trailer, with English subtitles, was uploaded to YouTube by shihlunTW