Proust - the key to understanding SPECTRE?

edited October 2015 in SPECTRE Posts: 251
A couple of years back, we discussed the interplay between Mallory's tale of King Arthur and the plot of Skyfall, and I think we generally agreed that the references were intentional.

http://www.mi6community.com/index.php?p=/discussion/4601/tennyson-the-key-to-understanding-skyfall-contains-spoilers#latest

In one of the SPECTRE discussions (apologies, I forget which one), someone brought up Marcel Proust. Not being classically trained, unlike Sam Mendes, my knowledge of Proust is somewhat limited - but from Wikipedia I pick up that volume one "episode of the madeleine" of "In search of Lost Time" deals with forgotten childhood memories by the narrator of a man named Swann who visited the narrators parents. The memories were brought back by the taste of madeleine cake dipped in tea. Swann has an unhappy marriage, and tried to do his best for his beautiful daughter. Swann falls into bad company, including joining a club where the leader demands total obedience. The narrator ponders how appearances mask the true nature of things.

I was wondering if anyone has a better understanding of Proust, who can comment on any potential links?

Comments

  • Posts: 61
    awesome finding man, good example for scriptwriting 101
  • DariusDarius UK
    Posts: 354
    Yes, the Proust references are there and the name Madeleine Swann is an obvious one, although don't look too deeply because the notion of "hidden memory" is the main Proustian driving force in SP. There are Bond's hidden memories of his youth -- memories that he will share with no one, which is why he is essentially a loner, tortured by ghosts of the past that even the destruction of Skyfall can't assuage.

    Then there is the character of Madeleine Swann, who also has forgotten memories of Oberhauser's relationship with her father and the denial of the monstrous child that both men conceived that seems to her almost like a changeling sibling that she can only run from. The parallels here between Swann and Tracy Bond are obvious in that both women have a father that has created a monster alongside them and all they can do is run into the arms of denial.
  • edited October 2015 Posts: 12,680
    I was the one who brought up Marcel Proust, as Madeleine Swann was clearly a hint at his works: À la recherche du temps perdu, when the main character remembers his past by eating a madeleine, and Du côté de chez Swann.

    I read part of Swann years ago, when I was doing my degree in French literature.
  • DariusDarius UK
    Posts: 354
    @Ludovico

    You are lucky then to have read À la recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time) in the original French, because it contains some of the most wonderfully crafted language in French literature.

    I think it's appropriate to SP because Bond is searching for his lost past and however much he denies it and refuses to talk about it (eg the "shrink" scene in SF), it catches up with him like a chicken coming home to roost.
  • Posts: 251
    and critics sneer that Bond films have no depth...
  • DariusDarius UK
    Posts: 354
    Troy wrote: »
    and critics sneer that Bond films have no depth...

    Well, it's true to say the earlier ones didn't. They were pure entertainment, full stop. However, the boundaries between "arty" movies and "entertainment" movies has greyed a lot over the years, thanks to movie pioneers like Hitchcock, who elevated the thriller way above its pulp roots.

    Certainly, the last four Bond movies have significantly more depth than their predecessors as regards theme, allusion and characterisation. This, in my opinion, makes for a more satisfying movie that will tend also to please those there just for the eye-candy and the excitement because they perceive the depth on a subliminal level.
  • FormulaMasaFormulaMasa Finland
    edited October 2015 Posts: 6
    Thank you for this information! Stunning stuff really, makes me appriciate Mendes even more. Personally I think he has taken the depth of Bonds to another level with the Tennyson & King Arthur references in Skyfall (even as a non-British I got the references to the empire, England's role in the world and so on) and now Proust in Spectre.. I love this depth and references, and this is why I rank Skyfall and Spectre as my favourites of Craig's films.
  • Posts: 12,680
    Darius wrote: »
    @Ludovico

    You are lucky then to have read À la recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time) in the original French, because it contains some of the most wonderfully crafted language in French literature.

    I think it's appropriate to SP because Bond is searching for his lost past and however much he denies it and refuses to talk about it (eg the "shrink" scene in SF), it catches up with him like a chicken coming home to roost.

    I read Swann, not À la recherche. But to be honest, while I recognize that Proust is an amazing writer, I never managed to enjoy his novel. Not yet anyway. I will need to get back to him one day.
  • DariusDarius UK
    Posts: 354
    @Ludovico

    Well, Proust takes a bit of getting into. As long as you're not expecting too much in the way of plot, the revelations of the inner workings of the human mind more than make up for it. I just like the sheer poetry of the language.
  • edited November 2015 Posts: 4
    In relation with the great finding of the OP, I brought back this thread for linking a recent entry of a blog - where the author talk even of psychology related to movies - just related to this argument. Apparently the movie's connection with Proust uses as medium Madeleine Swann's but everything seems to go beyond her origin, rather ending to be overall associated with the same character of James:

    http://www.mindswork.co.uk/wpblog/the-spectre-of-memory-psychoanalysing-bond/

    It's a truly interesting article that I suggest to each fan and the reasonings done don't seem to me forced at all for not making believable the connections (overall considering Mendes' Arthurian references already mentioned for Skyfall).

    In my opinion Spectre is already a good and entertaining work but a such matter adds definitely more depth to the movie and its themes.

    EDIT: About the memory/repetition theme, I would like to add that Madeleine's conversation with Bond about the presence of a choice in following or less his life as a spy resembles too much the same words of Vesper during the intimate dinner after the poker's victory in Casino Royale; more, both the 2 women made their first meeting with Bond just through a mutual discussion of their past and persona: taking in consideration the article it's still more hard think that it's just a coincidence.

  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    Posts: 7,381
    Interesting connections made.
  • Posts: 232
    Some time ago I came across the following very interesting article in French which examined Spectre through Proust's work, and most particularly the episode of the madeleine. Insofar as it offers extremely relevant avenues of analysis for understanding Mendes' intentions, it seemed worth to translate some extracts.
    It is unlikely that the Texan, New Zealand or Japanese audiences who saw the latest Bond film, Spectre, were aware that the name of the heroine played by Léa Seydoux, Madeleine Swann, was a direct reference to Proust, but that is not certain either that the French audience that this reference made smile has grasped the meaning it had in the very architecture of the film.
    [...]
    Because the way in which the expression "it's my madeleine de Proust" comes up daily in conversations whenever someone brings up the slightest memory, including that of her first pair of slippers, does not fail to be irritative.
    [...]
    One could obviously say to all those who evoke “their madeleine of Proust” that, if it is “of Proust”, it could not be theirs, but the irony would only add to the misinterpretation, since Proust explains precisely in the last pages of La Recherche that a writer does not offer his readers so much his personal view of the world as he helps them to develop their own view of the world. He lends them far less his eyes than a pair of glasses. He purely and simply plays the role of an optician. Vision? No. Revision.

    And therefore, the function of memory in the episode of the madeleine, or that of literature, since it is in fact one and the same thing, is to offer us an experience twice which carries a truth which, paradoxically, was absent from the first experience. Marcel feels the taste of the madeleine much better when he finds it again - moreover a little by chance, because this taste is associated with the physical sensation of the madeleine dissolving under the effect of tea - than when he consumes this madeleine in his childhood. It is moreover not uninteresting to note that in the first version of the famous passage, that which one finds in
    Contre Sainte-Beuve, a kind of early draft of La Recherche, the madeleine is not yet a madeleine, but a rusk. Because, what is a rusk? A rusk is a dough that had to be baked twice to gain its true nature. The memory is therefore the second cooking which gives the experience we have had a meaning it did not yet have.
    [...]
    The choice to name the heroine Madeleine Swann finds its justification in at least two elements of the film. The first is Blofeld. Old acquaintance? Yes, Bond’s nemesis from the start, almost as recurring as him on the show. But Bond discovers here, or at least makes us discover, that Blofeld was not his enemy from the start, but from birth, from birth, since they were foster brothers. Or, to put it another way, the metaphor "enemy brothers" is not here a metaphor and should, in their case, be taken at face value. The other element is Madeleine Swann herself. This Bond Girl - partly because she has a father, and a father who shows little respect for the laws - is a sort of reincarnation of Tracy, who was Bond's legitimate wife in OHMSS. The internet rumors that she will reappear in the next episode (to be slain right away by Blofeld) as Bond's second official wife have, as usual, no basis, but they are not irrational, as Madeleine Swann is the first Bond Girl in more than half a century to say clearly to the hero: “Choose: it's me or your career as a secret agent. "

    Far beyond Spectre, the idea of ​​a memory truer than the first experience is a fairly good summary of the fate of any work of art, an object constantly reread, reviewed, reinterpreted, re-evaluated over time and space.

    https://boojum.fr/proust-james-proust-laffaire-de-madeleine


    In my opinion, the analysis could even be taken further, the organization of SPECTRE could appear, by its simple name, as the much more tangible embodiment of this allegorical reinterpretation of Bond's beginnings, of his cinematographic past, much more than Blofeld himself. It is in any case an interesting analysis.
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    Posts: 7,381
    Will Fukunaga's influence on No Time To Die dig deeper into those themes.
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