An Affair to Remember

Leo McCarey, USA, 1957, Théâtre du Temple


Freshly arrived at the threshold of the grandmother’s garden, Terry feels something quite profound. This is her first time in this place, unlike Nickie, who has many memories of being here in his youth. She immediately feels that this small paradise is both comfortable and restful. The choice of different axes of shots reveal the space to us. We see trees and flowers, a basin and a bench. In the first shot, covering their arrival, we see the geographical situation of this location. We clearly see that it is elevated above the port and the village, and then, in the second shot, which is both wide and moving, the camera follows them as they come into the space. It allows the audience to clearly understand the layout of the space and the elements that make it up – the garden, the chapel and the living room. We see a series of circuits around the garden, comings and goings, entrances and exits, which, like in the theatre allows us to see the characters developing, sometimes alone, or in twos or all together in a three. Elsewhere the editing is swifter, for example when the camera show what Nickie is talking about – the door of the chapel, a few steps above the garden. In doing this McCarey delays the arrival of the grandmother, allowing the two characters on screen, as well as the audience, the time to take in the space, and to allow Nickie the time to free himself of memories. This allows a special, intimate, moment of calm to come between the two characters, just themselves alone, whereas on the cruise they are subject to the glance of many curious eyes. Nickie then tells the story of his grandmother to Terry. Fidel, the dog, guardian of the chapel, brings the presence of an animal, and with it another time, as it has witnessed Nickie’s past relationship with this space. The grandmother’s long awaited arrival in the garden, in essence making her arrival on stage like a play, forces Nickie to clarify his intentions about his impending marriage, and to bring his life into order. His grandmother’s confusion, on mistaking Terry for his fiancé, authorises their relationship in a twisted way, identifying that they are getting closer and closer together, whilst, in fact, each remains promised to someone else. In this way the past, present and future are bunched together in this moment of time in this special place, separate from the world unique to the world of memories.