Total Eclipse

Synopsis: In 1871, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), an established poet, invites boy genius Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) to live with Paul and his young pregnant wife, Mathiltde, in her father's home in Paris. Rimbaud's uncouth behavior disrupts the household as well as the insular society of French poets, but Verlaine finds the youth invigorating. Stewed in absinthe and resentment, Verlaine abuses Mathiltde; he and Rimbaud become lovers and abandon her. There are reconciliations and partings with Mathiltde and partings and reconciliations with Rimbaud, until an 1873 incident with a pistol sends one of them to prison. Codas dramatize the poets' final meeting and last illnesses.
Director(s): Agnieszka Holland
Production: New Line Home Entertainment
  1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
111 min

Sometimes he speaks

in a kind of tender dialect...

of the death

which causes repentance...

of the unhappy men

who certainly exist...

of painful tasks

and heartrending departures.

In the hovels

where we got drunk...

he wept looking at those

who surrounded us...

a cattle of poverty.

He lifted up drunks

in the black streets.

He had the pity a bad mother

has for small children.

He moved with the grace

of a little girl at catechism.

He pretended to know

about everything...

business, art, medicine.

I followed him.

I had to.

Someone for you, sir.

Over there.

Do I know her?

She gave me her card.


Please sit down.

Has Andre

been looking after you?

Can I get you

something to drink?

No, thank you.


It's really

a business matter...

I want to discuss

with you, Mr. Verlaine.

This was published

a few months ago...

an unauthorized selection

of my brother's poems.

My mother and I

are anxious to prevent...

anything like this

from happening again.

We thought you might

be able to help us.

I? How?

I understand you have

a large number...

of my brother's manuscripts.

I have some, yes.

My mother and I

would be very grateful...

if you would return them.

I've always tried to use

the utmost discretion...

in everything

concerning your brother.

I think I can say I've always

defended his interests.

Sometimes I wonder why,

since in many ways...

they're diametrically

opposed to my own.

I don't see how.

It took many years for his work

to be understood...

but once his name

began to be known...

it soon became clear

that our ways were numbered.

The music of old-fashioned verse

was no longer enough.

He swept us away.

Not that I mind, you understand.

I know I was once a good writer.

I didn't know his name

was so well-known.


The young understand him now.

He's the voice of the future.

What matters to me most...

is that we did

our best work together.

Both of us.


I'm looking for Paul Verlaine.

Are you Monsieur Rimbaud?


Monsieur Verlaine

is not with you, then?


He went to the station

to meet you.

He doesn't know what

I look like, does he?

I am

Mrs. Maute de Fleurville...

Monsieur Verlaine's


and this is my daughter...

Mrs. Verlaine.

How did you get

from the station?


Perhaps you'd like a wash.


You're even younger

than we imagined.

How old are you?

Darling, it's not polite

to ask people their ages.

I need a piss.

How old are you,

if you don't mind?

He does.


You did say in your letter

you were twenty-one.

I noticed you at the station...

but I didn't think

it could be you.


Those poems you sent me...

were remarkable

for someone of twenty-one.

For someone of sixteen,

they're unprecedented.

That's why I told you

I was twenty-one.

I didn't want you

to feel patronizing...

before you'd read them.

Of course. I hope your mother

isn't too angry with me.

Once she'd found out

you'd sent the fare...

she seemed quite happy.

You come from the Ardennes,

don't you, Monsieur Rimbaud?


Pleasant town,

Charleville, isn't it?

Last place on God's earth.

What does your father do?

Drinks mostly, I believe.

We haven't seen him

for ten years.

I'm sorry.

No need.

He's very well out of it.

Perhaps you'd like to read

something to us after dinner.

No. I don't think so.

- Why not?

- Don't want to.

I never read out my poetry.

All the other poets do.

I'm not interested

in what they do.

We have soirees.

And you think poets

can learn from one another?

Only if they're bad poets.

You know about this?

I know what it is.

It's the poet's third eye.

Melts glasses.

What do you think of my wife?

I don't know.

What do you think of her?

She's still only a child,

of course.

So am I.

Absinthe, two.

You should do something

about getting it published.


Because that's what writers do.

I couldn't care less

about being published.

The only thing that matters

is the writing itself.

Everything else is literature.

Your last book

wasn't good enough.

You don't think so?

Premarital garbage.

No. Love poems.

A lot of people

found them very beautiful.

But they're all lies.

They're not lies. I love her.

- Love?

- Yes.

- No such thing.

- What do you mean?

Whatever binds families

and married couples together...

that's not love.

That's stupidity

or selfishness or fear.

Love doesn't exist.

You're wrong.

Self-interest exists.

Attachment based on

personal gain exists.

Complacency exists.

But not love.

Love has to be reinvented.

Why did he want so much

to escape from reality?

There never was a man

with such an aim.

Did he perhaps know secrets

to change life?

"Sometimes I've seen...

"what people

think they've seen."

He's not how I imagined him.

"I've wept too many tears...

"heartbreaking dawns."

I prefer your poems.

I don't really understand

that kind of thing.


No. This is something new.

"I've wept too many tears...

"heartbreaking dawns."

What is it?

He's kicking.

You see?


Don't you think

it would be more sensible...

to get one of

your friends to put him up?

People don't understand him.

I'm the only one

who understands him.

Well, Daddy certainly

won't understand him.

We had a revolution this year

which I supported.

I could have been shot.

If I hadn't been

thrown out of my job...

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Christopher Hampton

Christopher James Hampton, CBE, FRSL (born 26 January 1946) is a British playwright, screenwriter, translator and film director. He is best known for his play based on the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses and the film version Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and also more recently for writing the nominated screenplay for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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