The Green Ray
Directed by
Eric Rohmer (France 98mins)
31 Aug 1986 [Venice Film Festival]
Writing credits
Eric Rohmer
Marie Rivière
Marie Rivière .... Delphine
Amira Chemakhi .... in Paris
Sylvie Richez .... in Paris
María Luisa García .... Manuella in Paris (as Lisa Hérédia)
Basile Gervaise .... in Paris
Virginie Gervaise .... in Paris
René Hernandez .... in Paris
Dominique Rivière .... in Paris
Claude Jullien .... in Paris
Alaric Jullien .... in Paris
Laetitia Riviere .... in Paris
Isabelle Rivière .... in Paris
Béatrice Romand .... Béatrice in Paris
Rosette .... Françoise in Paris
Marcello Pezzutto .... in Paris
Irène Skobline .... in Paris
Eric Hamm .... Edouard in Cherbourg
Gérard Quéré .... in Cherbourg
Julie Quéré .... in Cherbourg
Brigitte Poulain .... in Cherbourg
Gerard Leleu .... in Cherbourg
Liliane Leleu .... in Cherbourg
Vanessa Leleu .... in Cherbourg
Huger Foote .... in Cherbourg
Michel Labourre .... in La Plagne
Paulo .... in La Plagne
Maria Couto-Palos .... in Biarritz
Isa Bonnet .... in Biarritz
Yve Doyhamboure .... in Biarritz
Dr. Friedrich Gunter Christlein .... in Biarritz
Paulette Christlein .... in Biarritz
Carita .... Lena in Biarritz
Marc Vivas .... in Biarritz
Joël Comarlot .... Joel in Biarritz
Vincent Gauthier .... Jacques in Biarritz
Produced by
Margaret Ménégoz .... producer
Original Music by
Jean-Louis Valéro
Cinematography by
Sophie Maintigneux
Film Editing by
María Luisa García
Production Management
Françoise Etchegaray .... production supervisor
Sound Department
Dominique Hennequin .... sound mixer
Claudine Nougaret .... sound recordist
Other crew
Philippe Demard .... sunset photography

The Green Ray (1986)

The proverb this time is a couplet from a Rimbaud poem Chanson de la Plus Haute Tour (Song of the Tallest Tower):

Ah! Que le temps vienne
Où les coeurs s'éprennent!

(Ah! Let the time come
when hearts are enamoured.)

Rimbaud took to the road on numerous occasions. The central character's travels in this film may have been a homage to Rimbaud's itchy-footed wanderings.

Delphine (Marie Rivière), a young Parisienne secretary, has her holiday plans upset when her friend pulls out of an imminent holiday. The film then follows her half-hearted attempts at alternative holidays in Cherbourg, the Alps, and finally Biaritz. Rivière, who pouts and weeps her way through most of the movie, improvised much of the dialogue and the result is an extremely realistic feel to the film. An unaffected naturalism that is difficult to achieve. Béatrice Romand, in a cameo role as a critical friend in Paris, gets quite excited, talking over the top of others; something that rarely happens in the well ordered world of screen dialogue.

Delphine seems to be locked into a situation that she has no means to improve. Chance is intended to play a big part; there is talk of fortune telling and Delphine finds playing cards in the street; the Queen of Spades and the Jack of Hearts, foretelling respectively the bad and good luck she is to experience. There is a contrast with Rohmer's later movie A Summer's Tale, that in other ways is similar, where the main character has lots of choices. Here, Delphine has none and so chance is all that is open to her.

To really enjoy this film it is necessary to empathize with Delphine. This isn't always easy given her depression and desire for solitude. She certainly doesn't encourage people to like her. She is neurotic, a bit of a drama queen and doesn't try to fit in. An example of this can be seen in Cherbourg where she makes a big deal out of being vegetarian; provoking a long discussion on the subject. We need to view Delphine as somebody who is searching for her heart's desire without knowing what it is. She is certainly not going to accept second-best and gives several men the brush off in the course of the film and walks out on several seemingly good holidays.

The film takes its title from a rare optical phenomenon seen at sunset, caused by the refraction of the sunlight through the earth's atmosphere and enhanced by atmospheric layering, where the sun briefly shines green instead of red just before it disappears over the horizon. Chance even comes into Delphine's discovery of this phenomenon when she overhears tourists talking of it in the course of a discussion of Jules Verne's novel, also called The Green Ray. According to Verne, at the moment one sees the green ray one's own thoughts and those of others are magically revealed. The final scene where she sees the green ray is Delphine's epiphany. Her reward for her independence and stubourness and it is extremely moving.

Several events in the film, in particular the finding the cards and the green ray, are unimprovised. Heralded by a musical theme that was composed by Rohmer, using as a starting point the letters of Bach's name as notes. The credited composer, Jean-Louis Valéro, worked this theme into a fugue that plays over the final scene and credits.

Two things to watch out for during the movie: red and green clothing that prefigures the ending, and Delphine's three moments of solitude and nature. First in the countryside at Cherbourg where she is walking alone and crying. Second as she walks alone in the mountains by the glacier, and finally in Biaritz where she walks down the steps towards the turmoil of the sea crashing against the rocks below. How do these moments compare with her experience of nature in the denoument.


• The film was originally entitled 'Summer' for US release.

The Green Ray won the Golden Lion at the 1986 Venice Film Festival.

• The green ray is a rare example of a Rohmer special effect and was created in the laboratory after several unsuccessful attempts to film it for real.

• The cast includes Riviere's two sisters, her brother-in-law, and niece, who play themselves.

• Delphine's star-sign is given as Capricorn and Rivière is a Capricorn herself.