Tuesday, October 06, 2020

"Qui est là" and "Who's there?" in "Secret Défense" and "Hamlet": The implicit question that begins all narratives

After an initial, brief conversation with a colleague going home from their laboratory, the scientist Sylvie Rousseau (Sandrine Bonnaire) in Jacques Rivette's 1998 film "Secret Défense" hears somebody moving around in the building and calls out, "Qui est là?" These are only almost the film's first words, but "Who's there?" is the first line in Shakespeare's "Hamlet", and when I watched Rivette's film again last month, I thought about how all narratives begin with that implicit question: "Who's there?" And opening scenes offer or refuse answers to that question: in "Secret Défense", it's who is there – her brother – that reveals that here, Sylvie will be more a sister than a scientist. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 October)

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