Drawing upon actual events in France’s pre-World War II political history, Eric Rohmer has made one of his most fascinating films: Triple agent. The 1936 elections; the Spanish Civil War; Stalin’s “purges,” including the show-trials and executions of 80,000 Soviet citizens; the contest between Hitler and Stalin, leading against logic to the non-aggression pact between them: some of this backdrop is in fact woven into the unfolding action, including a facsimile of the Miller-Skobline affair—Miller, here, Dobrinsky; Skobline, Voronin (Serge Renko, brilliant). At the ambiguous center is the Voronin/Skobline marriage, where the White Russian immigrant, ostensibly a bureaucrat in a White Russian organization in Paris, remains a puzzle to wife Arsinoé, who isn’t sure what her husband is or isn’t involved in, partly the result of his telling her as little as possible, and partly the result of her most of the time not wanting to know. Eventually the head of the organization, Dobrinsky, “disappears,” followed by the disappearance of Voronin himself, casting suspicion on his wife as an accomplice to her husband in Dobrinsky’s possible kidnapping and murder. On little or no evidence, Arsinoé is convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to twenty years in prison, where she soon dies of tuberculosis of the bone. When asked of her fate, two gentlemen in unison report her death—an exquisite, hilarious moment that implies that this is the one aspect of the affair that anyone can be certain about! Whether Voronin was an innocent White Russian (a contradiction in terms), a Nazi agent or a Soviet spy, and what, if anything, he had to do with Dobrinsky’s disappearance, and what exactly was his own fate: well, the film pretty much places us in Arsinoé’s mystified state—if even this innocence of hers can be believed!
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