In a northern Italian town in 1799, the invading Russian Army storms a citadel owned by the Commander (Luhr). His widowed daughter the Marquise (Clever) is saved from a gang of soldiers by the Count F. (Ganz), a Russian officer. Several months pass and the Marquise learns to her shock that she is pregnant. Banished by her family, she posts a notice in the paper asking the father of her child to come forward.
With remarkable fidelity to Heinrich von Kleist’s 1808 novella, Rohmer’s theatrical production limns themes of aristocratic virtue and 19th century social attitudes. Using minimal set design, monochromatic costumes and natural light, the French director infuses the story with heavy dramatic irony as the Count’s motives remain opaque to the rest of the cast. Rohmer’s moral tale balances delicately between formalism and emotion. Little wonder this “Marquise” took home the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.