At a train station in the French port town of Boulogne, middle-aged antiques dealer Helene (Seyrig) reunites with long-ago lover Alphonse (Kerien), in hopes of rekindling their romance. Alphonse has brought his perky niece, Francoise (Klein), who immediately shows an interest in Helene's handsome, troubled son, Bernard (Thierree), a decommissioned soldier haunted by an abominable incident during his tour of duty in Algeria. As each wrestles privately with the past, their relationships take an unpredictable turn.
Made in the wake of his masterful "Last Year at Marienbad," Resnais's cinematic puzzle concerns memory, regret, self-identity, and the psychological effects of war. In a complicated but wholly fascinating plotline, no one appears to be exactly what they say they are, and Resnais exploits the tensions with cunning effectiveness, especially when he introduces Alphonse's mysterious "friend," Roland de Smoke (Sainval). Perhaps the film's most radical departure from convention is the director's unconventional editing method, which creates a jarring disunity in time and space, thus reinforcing the emotional turbulence on-screen. One of the first films in France to deal squarely with the Algerian War (for which it was censored), "Muriel" is a captivating story about people trying to reclaim the past in order to reshape their present.