The Marquise of O (film)

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La Marquise d'O...
The Marquise of O FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Éric Rohmer
Produced by Klaus Hellwig
Barbet Schroeder
Written by Éric Rohmer
Starring Edith Clever
Cinematography Néstor Almendros
Release dates
  • 19 May 1976 (1976-05-19) (France)
  • 28 May 1976 (1976-05-28) (West Germany)
  • 24 October 1976 (1976-10-24) (USA, limited)
Running time
102 minutes
Country West Germany/France
Language German

The Marquise of O (German: Die Marquise von O...) is a 1976 film directed by Éric Rohmer. Set in 1799, it tells the story of the Marquise von O, a virtuous widow, who finds herself pregnant and protests her innocence while possibly deserving to be exiled. The film was inspired by Heinrich von Kleist's 1808 novella Die Marquise von O. The film won the Grand Prix Spécial Prize at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


The story begins in a tavern, where two men are reading an announcement in the paper written by the Marquise of O saying that she is pregnant and wishes for the father of her child to present himself in order to marry him. The men are rather shocked by this announcement because she comes from an excellent family and her father is in charge of the citadel of their Italian town.

The next scene shows the Marquise's father's citadel being overrun by Russian forces. In the confusion, the Marquise finds herself about to be raped by a group of Russian soldiers. However, she is saved by the Russian commander of the attack, the Count, who reunites her with her children and has her put to bed. She is given a poppy seed tea on the insistence of her maid in order to help her sleep. The Count then finishes the attack on the Italians and the Marquise's father, the colonel, has to surrender to them.

When the Marquise awakes from her slumber she very much wants to thank the Count for having saved her, but the troops have already left so she is not able to. Her father reassures her that she will have the chance to thank him at a later date.

A few days later they receive news that the Count has been killed during a battle because of a chest wound. This greatly upsets the Marquise, who never got a chance to properly thank her rescuer. Shortly after this she starts to feel strangely and in one scene collapses, she has no explanation for this but figures that it is an effect of her traumatic attack, although it reminds her strangely of being pregnant with her daughter.

The reports of the Count's death turn out to be false, as some time later he appears at the family's house and asks for the Marquise's hand in marriage. They do not immediately give him an answer because the Marquise had previously resolved to not be remarried after the death of her husband and the family agrees that the couple hardly know each other. The Count is very insistent on her giving an answer immediately because he is supposed to be leaving to take a post in Naples. He decides to stay at their home much to the chagrin of the Colonel who does not think he should dessert his post in Naples in order to win the hand of his daughter. He dines with the family and tells them his reasons for wanting to marry the Marquise, mainly being that he hallucinated visions of her while he was recovering from his chest wound.

After dinner, the Marquise admits to her parents that this is a great test to her gratitude because although she does not wish to be remarried, she feels that she owes him this favour in return for having saved her. She decides to agree to marry him, which pleases her mother greatly. They tell the Count and tell him to go to his post in Naples and return when it is a better time to be married, they promise that the Marquise will not entertain any other suitors as potential husband. He is very happy about this and departs.

While he is away, the Marquise finds herself to be appearing more and more pregnant, but she does not believe it to be possible since she has not been with any man since the death of her husband. Her doubts are confirmed by a doctor and then a midwife. This infuriates her parents, who do not believe her innocence. They send her a letter telling her that she is no longer welcome in her home because of the shame she would bring the family in this situation. They also attempt to have her leave her daughters with them, but she adamantly refuses this and takes them with her to her deceased husband's estate, which is somewhat secluded.

Some time after this, the Count returns and is told of the news that the Marquise is pregnant. He still very insistent on marrying her even after hearing this fact, which shocks her brother. He then goes to the estate where she is staying and attempts to go inside but is turned away by the porter who is on strict orders to not let in any guests. So he sneaks in through the garden and finds the Marquise sitting outside with her daughters. He begs her to accept his marriage proposal but she does not and runs away.

She then decides to publish the announcement in the newspaper which was seen in the first scene of the film. The announcement is answered the very next day by an anonymous person who says that he will present himself at her father's house on the 3rd at eleven o'clock. Upon seeing the reply, the Marquise's parents believe that she is playing a trick on them and they are not convinced of her innocence. So her mother decides to put this to the test by telling her that it is their servant Leopoldo and then gauging her reaction to determine her innoncence.

She makes her way to the Marquise's residence and is accepted by her daughter. She then tells her daughter that the man has already come forward to them and that it is Leopoldo. The Marquise is quite upset by this information because he is of a much lower class than she is but she accepts it and agrees that she will marry him. This convinces her mother that she is indeed innocent because she really did not know who the father is and did not have someone in mind to appear on the 3rd. Her mother then confesses that she had played a trick on her to determine her innoncence and they make up.

She takes the Marquise back to the family home to explain to the Colonel that she is indeed innocent and then leaves them alone for him to apologize to her. When her mother returns, the Marquise is sitting in her father's lap embracing him and kissing him, which pleases her mother, who is glad they are again on good terms. They then discuss the possibility of the Marquise having to marry a man of a lower class, but she is not very concerned by this and agrees to marry whoever appears on the 3rd.

When the fateful day arrives, the Marquise and her mother wait in their parlour room for the father to appear, and he does, but it is none other than the Count. He confesses to having taken advantage of her during the night of her rescue. The Marquise is very upset by this revelation because she trusted him and now considers him to be a monster. But her mother is very pleased by this because she considers him to be a very suitable husband for her since he is of good standing and well off. They come to an agreement involving her father that they shall be married but the Count will have none of the benefits but all of the duties of a husband.

The next day they are unhappily married and shortly after the Count gets an apartment in town but not visit the family until after the birth of the child. Eventually the Marquise develops respect for the Count again and in the last scene of the film they are seen kissing happily.


Cinematic style[edit]

The style of the film is very theatrical and minimalistic. There is no accompanying soundtrack, which adds to the theatre-like quality of the work. The pace is slow and stately which allows for the nuances of the actors' performances to shine through. The sets suit the historical context of the story but they do not take away from the plot as a dramatic element; they are more functional and realistic rather than dramatic.

Critical reception[edit]

The film won the Grand Prix Spécial du Jury, Cannes at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival and was shown among films such as Taxi Driver and Cría Cuervos. It also won 3 prizes in Deutscher Filmpreis: Best Actress for Edith Clever, Best Actor for Bruno Ganz and Best Production Design. It was well received among critics and it was the director's first feature length film that had a theatrical release for four years. Therefore it was celebrated as his return to directing.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Marquise of O". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 

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