Total Eclipse tells the of story of Arthur Rimbaud’s tumultuous relationship with poet Paul Verlaine. Their love affair would inform the former’s great poem “Season in Hell.” Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young Baudelaire in training, redefines the very definition of cruelty and manipulation with his loud talk and constant drug use. His abrasive nature and passionate rejection of society’s norms catches the eye of Verlaine (David Thewlis), who reads one of the young Rimbaud’s poems and decides they can both “learn” from each other. At the heart of Eclipse is a rather uncompromising love triangle: Verlaine, a member of the bourgeois, lives with wife Mathilde (Romane Bohringer) in her parent’s home and Rimbaud, symbol of unconventional behavior, tries to destroy their marriage. Holland (The Angry Harvest, Europa, Europa) respects Rimbaud’s uncouth behavior as the necessary kindling for his poetic fire. The poets are themselves “works in progress” and the best scenes in the film revolve around Verlaine’s self-doubt and feelings of incompetence when his work is compared to that of Rimbaud’s. It is Salieri and Mozart all over again, except Verlaine and Rimbaud take their troubles to the bedroom. Despite its fascinating subject matter, Total Eclipse is both unflattering and loveless. Holland seems to care very little for the way Rimbaud and Verlaine’s crass relationship was channeled into words. Worse than DiCaprio’s accent are his and Thewlis’s ludicrous sex scenes. Bohringer steals the show as Verlaine’s patient spouse, juggling the character’s abandonment issues and strain for solidarity with a sad gracefulness. Jim Morisson and Patti Smith were both inspired by Rimbaud, and the rebellion inherent in their music would lead one to believe that this is indeed the case. Morisson’s self-destruction is similar to that of Rimbaud’s but the Rimbaud seen here is less a poet warrior than cloying brat.
- Fine Line Features
- 112 min
- Agnieszka Holland
- Christopher Hampton
- Leonardo DiCaprio, David Thewlis, Romane Bohringer, Dominique Blanc, Nita Klein, James Thierree, Denise Chalem, Andrzej Seweryn
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