Alain Resnais made his first feature film in 1959, and just as most of the films by new wave directors, so has Hiroshima mon amour remained as his most remembered film. In 1961 he directed his second film Last Year at Marienbad which still was strictly in the district of the Nouvelle Vague. In his own words, it was his first attempt to deal with the subject of thought. These two films, alongside with the documentary Night and Fog, are usually the only ones people remember by Alain Resnais. However, after Marienbad he made Muriel, and after Muriel he made The War Is Over, both of which were quite well received and not overlooked. In 1967 Alain Resnais started to film Je t'aime, je t'aime which, despite a few good reviews, was instantly overlooked and left in the shadows of the incidents in May 1968. It's a shame that Je t'aime, je t'aime is Resnais' most forgotten film because it easily survives multiple viewings and is nearly a perfect piece of work.
To my mind I Love You, I Love You is Resnais' finest film since 1961, and I could easily put it at the same level with Hiroshima and Marienbad. By saying this, I mean no insult for Muriel and The War Is Over, both of which are brilliant films. I Love You, I Love You is a simple story; it might just be the simplest story Resnais has ever told. But the way how Resnais tells this story is unconventional, unique and opaque; he has completely abandoned temporal order. It's a story of a certain man called Claude Ridder who loves a woman and has tried to commit a suicide after the woman's death. Not having succeed in killing himself, an institution takes contact to him and wants to use him in an experiment. For the first time they want to try to send a man, instead of a mouse, to the past.
Resnais has always been interested in past, without being interested in the future -- with the exception of The War Is Over. In I Love You, I Love You this fascination for past is at its most concrete but the science fiction is just a frame story which gives a rational explanation for cutting the man's life in pieces. It's an abstract film and differs quite a lot from other films Resnais made in the 1960's. For instance, compared to Muriel, I Love You, I Love You only consists of about 300 pictures where there are about 1000 of them in Muriel. On Resnais' caliber the rhythm of the film is almost calm, and relaxed compared to the hectic rhythm of Muriel. In the art of editing, musical terms become essential; rhythm, harmony and chord, and in I Love You, I Love You Alain Resnais has completely understood the joy of the editing table and its force to dissect the rhythms and riddles of reality.
The film is perfect for its rhythm and harmony; it's as close to their features as film can get. The way how Alain Resnais approaches cinema is cubist (Resnais was incredibly fascinated with visual arts, and made a few documentaries about artists in his early days). He breaks his film into pieces and re-organizes the parts according to a higher logic than chronology. The pieces of the protagonist's life are given to the viewer without any chronological order, and we are at times inevitably forced to destroy our puzzle and start building it all over again. The rules of continuity are broken continuously, in every turn, and this is the core of the Nouvelle Vague; to change, to develop and put the limitations of cinema to the test. Nonetheless, despite Resnais breaks the rules of continuity, the film somehow works as an integrated entirety -- much more integrated compared to the earlier films by Resnais.
The repeat of the title "I Love You, I Love You" reflects the repetition of emotions -- the title refers to the repetition of events. The protagonist is forced to experience his past again and again, while being trapped in a time capsule -- in between of past and presence. But living these events again and again isn't nearly as distressing as the agony and pain caused by love. In the presence, he is forced to love the dead Catrine -- he's a prisoner of love. He loves her, loves her and there is no redemption for this everlasting pain that love occurs; suicide is the only way out from this prison, but it doesn't work out either. Experiencing the suicide all over again only leads him to the same place; to the table surrounded by scientists.
The small mouse, who shared the capsule with the man, visited the man's presence. The man wondered if he could sometime visit the mouse's. What does the last freeze-frame of the mouse pushing its nose through the blow-hole of the dome indicate? Is the mouse a prisoner of the man's past and forced to live his past again and again. The mouse is trapped in a narrow place -- in a dome. Is the dome same for the mouse as love is for the man? The mouse tries to breath but at times it's just so incredibly difficult.