Seduction, mystery, beauty. A romance that may or may not have happened. These are the themes of Last Year at Marienbad, a genre-defining, fashion-forward French New Wave film released in 1961.
In a baroque spa hotel, an unnamed sophisticate attempts to persuade a similarly unnamed woman that they have not only previously met, but that they were also romantically involved and had planned to elope together. The woman recalls no such encounter and so begins a sensual and philosophical examination of the uncertainty of truth.
Strikingly composed and beautifully shot in CinemaScope, Last Year at Marienbad hypnotically merges chronology to blur the boundaries of reality and fantasy, the past and the present.
These themes and juxtapositions are woven into the Emilia Wickstead Spring Summer 2022 collection. A melding of old-world and modern proportions is at play. Androgynous shirting in raw, champagne-hued cotton is paired with an oversized, feminine shawl.
Creamy textured jacquard is applied to a sporty take on tailored trousers, whilst later becoming an A-line evening gown with a sensual, low-rise drop waist. Diaphanous skirts are paired with spray-on effect tops — reminiscent of classic swimsuit shapes — to create sleek, almost statuesque silhouettes.
The waist becomes an erogenous zone. Midriffs are casually exposed with low-slung pencil skirts. Elsewhere, waistbands extend from bust to hip, combining the impression of soft corsetry with the suggestion of a traditional cummerbund. Softly pleated gowns in crepe georgette float veil-like in the wind, like sundresses or nightgowns.
A sequence of striking blood orange and blue prints, hand painted in the Emilia Wickstead atelier, are adorned with lovebirds, fish and wreath motifs, evoking the romance of a summer holiday from a bygone era. Wraps, carried nonchalantly under the arm like beach towels, morph into eveningwear when draped around the body. A throw-on little black dress, the emblem of minimal elegance, is paired with an armour-like heavy satin shawl.
Later, the colour palette evolves into a joyful, 1960’s inspired blend of lime, magenta and tangerine. A bold rose print, a universal symbol of love, is re-imagined in unexpected blue and orange, both vivid and melancholic.
Filmed on location in the gardens of the Badminton Estate, Gloucestershire, the Emilia Wickstead Spring Summer 2022 film uses wide-angle shots punctuated by close-ups and static frames to create a maze-like sense of surreal displacement, in keeping with the hypnotic, otherworldly quality of Marienbad. A backdrop of sculptural hedges adds to the surrealism. Transitions between black and white and vibrant colour increase the feeling of dream-like movement between reality and fantasy, the past and the present.
Emilia was taken by the sophistication of the film’s beauty and styling, which itself seems to be a modern interpretation of 1920’s silent films. Neat 1960’s hairstyles are referenced, in particular leading actress Delphine Seyrig’s famous ‘Marienbad hairstyle’, which on release was imitated all over Europe. Yet each of Emilia’s romantic muses possess a certain individuality. Handsome beauties with an enigmatic edge.