In his essays Rohmer generally refrained from writing about Christianity in apologetic or confessional modes, though he would not hesitate to confront opposing ideologies. In a piece for Cahiers responding to a secular colleague, Rohmer charged, “Be an atheist and the camera will offer you the spectacle of a world without God in which there is no law other than the pure mechanism of cause and effect.”
One could also say that his whole filmography is a continuation of this rebuttal. The hairdresser miraculously reunited with her true love in The Winter’s Tale; grace bursting through Delphine’s malaise in the form of the green ray at sunset at the end of The Green Ray; the reconciliation between the marquise and her mother in The Marquise of O; the turn from adultery back to fidelity at the end of Love in the Afternoon; the extemporaneous defense of monotheism in The Romance of Astrea and Céladon; the reenactment of the Passion Gospels at the end of Perceval. And of course, My Night at Maud’s.
It would be churlish to extrapolate from Jean-Louis’s personal expression of faith in My Night at Maud’s – except for in A Summer’s Tale, Rohmer denied that his characters were inspired by his own life – but elements of it ring true in the light of his filmography. In a conversation about Blaise Pascal, the young engineer Jean-Louis tells his Marxist friend Vidal, “I’m a Catholic, or at least I try to be, but he [Pascal] doesn’t fit in with my notion of Catholicism. It’s precisely because I’m a Christian that his austerity offends me. If that’s what Christianity is about, then I’m an atheist.” The subject comes up again at dinner with Vidal’s friend Maud, a charming doctor who spends the night pressing him on his beliefs. Over wine and dinner, Pascal comes up again. “I think there’s another way to look at Christianity,” Jean-Louis says of Pascal’s strict asceticism. Vidal notes, “his sister Gilberte wrote how he never said, ‘This is good.’”
“Well I say, ‘This is good!” Jean-Louis replies excitedly. “As a Christian, I say not acknowledging what’s good is evil.” If his movies are any indication, it is obvious that Rohmer believed the same.
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