Swiss-born director Anne-Marie Miéville’s 27-minute The Book of Mary, which forms the first part of the feature film Hail Mary (1985), is often overlooked in the rush to discuss the more profanely ‘Biblical’ section made by Miéville’s collaborator and partner of some 40 years’ standing, Jean-Luc Godard. Let’s reverse the standard critical trend here, and concentrate solely on Miéville.
The Book of Mary screens with Hail Mary and Brief Notes about Hail Mary at the BFI Southbank on 27 February 2016.
Beyond her extensive collaborations with Godard, Miéville (born 1945) has directed four features and several shorts. The tone and style of her work is distinctive: sharply lyrical yet rigorously unsentimental; rooted in the rhythms of daily, domestic, family life, yet constantly broken up by harsh discontinuities and de-synchronisations of sound and image.
The Book of Mary, like much of Miéville’s cinema, looks at the gulf between female and male experience – a gulf doubled and widened here by the gap between a young girl, Mary (Rebecca Hampton), and her parents (Aurore Clément and Bruno Cremer), who are in the process of separating. Whether dealing with woman or child or both in the one body, Miéville’s concern is to reveal all the little, fighting, everyday resistances to the patriarchal order: gestures, cries, objections, convulsions, flights of fancy, sophistic games.
Miéville’s cinematic art devotes itself to finding an ‘objective correlative’ to these tangled emotions within material structures: the lines of a visual composition or the parts in a piece of music; the equations in mathematics or the angles in geometry. Our audiovisual essay aims to bring out this logic beneath the deliberately simple plot of The Book of Mary: a film we can only truly understand and feel if, in our imaginations as spectators, we can manage to look, move, read, breathe, deduce, sing, dance and punch right along with Mary.