Time Regained (film)

Time Regained (French: Le Temps retrouvé) is a 1999 French drama film directed by the Chilean filmmaker Raúl Ruiz. It is an adaptation of the final volume of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. The plot is about the anonymous narrator of In Search of Lost Time who reflects on his past experiences while lying on his deathbed.

Time Regained
Original film poster
Directed byRaúl Ruiz
Produced byPaulo Branco
Screenplay byRaúl Ruiz
Gilles Taurand
Based onIn Search of Lost Time
by Marcel Proust
StarringCatherine Deneuve
Emmanuelle Béart
Marcello Mazzarella
John Malkovich
Marie-France Pisier
Vincent Perez
Music byJorge Arriagada
CinematographyRicardo Aronovich
Edited byDenise de Casabianca
Gemini Films
France 2 Cinéma
Les Films du Lendemain
Distributed byGemini Films
Kino International
Release date
Running time
163 minutes
Budget$10.4 million
Box office$4.5 million[1]

The choice to develop the last volume of In Search of Lost Time allows the film to refer to the entire series of books. For example, the film shows an episode of the first novel, Swann's Way, usually referred to as "the lady in pink," as a flashback of Time Regained.

The film was entered into the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.[2]


The movie starts off with Marcel Proust on his death bed. He is dictating something for Céleste to write out for him. He calls for her to bring him some pictures from his drawer. He dismisses her and he begins to flip through the pictures naming each person in the photos. We then cut to Charlie who is playing the piano at a party. Odette de Crécy leads the guests in the room to observe Marcel, however in this period he is even younger. The room doors emit a blinding heaven-like light. Marcel tips his hat off to Gilberte and both are called to take a picture. It returns to Marcel in his deathbed asking Celeste about roses. As she is leaving the room, we see yet again another door way that is emitting a blinding heaven-like light.

Gilberte and Marcel are sitting down having lunch while discussing some books. Marcel requests to borrow The Goncourt Journals while Gilberte keeps The Girl with Eyes of Gold. Marcel recalls a relationship he had with Albertine in which he was heartbroken that she had been unfaithful with not only women, but men as well. Marcel breaks a tea cup and Gilberte has the pieces cleaned and put in her mahogany box.

Marcel is suffering from a nightmare and as he tries to pull the service bell, something stops him. He wakes up to a ghostly Albertine stroking his face. He wakes up again to realize that he had been dreaming about his ghostly encounter. Marcel and Gilberte are walking down the street discussing Robert as it starts to storm.

A younger Marcel is examining a picture of the younger Gilberte. There is a note on the back of the photograph, however Marcel and another woman are playfully arguing about the signature being signed at the bottom. It flips from Gilberte, to Albertine, to Libertinage.

Robert is reading an excerpt to Charlie. Charlie dismisses himself to attend an algebra class and Robert becomes upset and throws his paper and a picture frame of Charlie onto the floor. Charlie comes home to Madame Cottard who is holding up a picture frame of a woman. She slaps him in fear that he is being unfaithful.

Robert and Marcel are discussing Robert's second woman until Giblerte arrives. She is dressed in a red evening gown and with a decorative headdress on. She walks down the staircase twice. As the woman's face is pictured, it goes back and forth between Gilberte's and Rachel's. Gilberte bursts into tears. Marcel and Gilberte make eye contact which prompts him to check the mahogany box that is on the fireplace. He discovers the tea cup that he had broken. He is then surrounded by people at a dinner table where they are telling stories. He is then riding a train when he stops to see a younger version of himself in the window.

Going back to the party where Charlie is playing the piano, Madame Verdurin requests for him to play a song. He claims he has enlisted for the front because of boredom and to uphold his reputation. He starts to play Beethoven. Odette de Crécy and Marcel take a carriage to another party. A siren then sounds which prompts the lights and music to turn off. The guests are then kicked out of the party. There are sounds of missiles and explosions in the background.

Marcel makes his way back into the building and moves from a room with guests around a dinner table to the kitchen where Le Prince de Foix and some other men are playing a game with food. The flags in the food represent war zones as they are studying the German troop movements. Robert is in conversation with a gentleman as they hear another siren. This time it is the all-clear siren.

The people at the party watch a projected screen showing soldiers at war. Marcel reads a letter to himself as the room is evolving around him. He is joined by his younger self operating the projector.

Odette visits a man who is sick and in his bed. He instructs her to open a gift on the table which reveals many francs. She closes the box and walks towards the bed to caress the man. It then cuts to a funeral in which Marcel attends. The widow reveals her anger that she feels from finding letters from her husband's, Robert de Saint-Loup, mistress. Marcel comforts and soothes her.

Robert and Marcel then discuss the war. It then cuts to Marcel inside of an elevator is conversation with the bellhop. We then see Robert and Marcel again, in a different time where Robert is dressed in his military uniform.

Rachel and Charlie are seen having lunch. She speaks of being written a prescription for croissants as it cures her headaches. She asks about the Charlie and Charlus’ encounter. Charlie turns down his invitation to spend the night and day with Charlus to which Charlus replies, “Charlie! Look out. I’ll get even!”

Marcel walks down a street at night time and suffers from flashbacks of his childhood. He encounters Le Prince de Foix where they discuss Saint-Loup who has wrongly been implicated in a spy scandal. Marcel seems to be staying in a hotel full of soldiers. He discovers a room where he hears the cries of Charlus who is being tortured. As he is being tortured the screen turns red with blood. The whipping turns out to be erotic roleplaying as Charlus is putting on a robe and engaging in conversation with another man. Marcel is still spying on him through the window. Marcel joins other soldiers in the common room where he sits in a chair. All the men then tell him not to sit in that chair as it is the place where Prince de Foix died and nobody can sit in that chair. The soldiers all line up as Charlus enters the room. Charlus walks by each of the soldiers and addresses them.

Sirens sound throughout the city once more, signaling raids. People are seen fleeing the city carrying their belongings. Francoise discovers that Marcel is still alive and expresses her gratitude towards Robert who rescued them from the cellar. Marcel reads a note from Charlus explaining the location of Morel, who is hiding at 25 Avenue du Bois.

Marcel travels to said location and meets with Morel. Morel says that the police are after him. Marcel persuades Morel to settle his differences with Charlus. Morel explains that he fears the man.

We cut back to the funeral of Robert de Saint-Loup where you see the women mourning his death. We then go back to Robert having conversation with a teenage Marcel. Marcel points out towards the beach and asks if it is Robert de Saint-Loup. To which the woman replies yes. At the funeral Robert's mother thanks Marcel for attending. Accompanied with a few others, they start to leave. Oriane de Guermantes leaves with another older gentleman. A carriage led by a single horse transports Marcel to what seems to be a park. The war is over and he is met by Charlus who is limping along with his cane. He appears to have not aged well as his hair is unkempt and his speech is slowed. He starts to list his family members that have passed: Antoine de Mouchy, Charles Swann, Adalbert de Montmorency, Boson de Talleyrand, and Sosthène de Doudeauville. A carriage pulls up carrying Mrs. De Saint-Eurverte, to which Charlus bows. Jupien then tells Charlus who was in the carriage and that he hates her. Jupien helps Charlus to another carriage that is waiting for them, leaving Marcel.

A teenage Marcel is being called by his grandmother. Charlus then scolds him about his inability to answer his grandmother. The Marcel that was just left in the park starts walking in somewhere. We are transported to another time, though he is still walking. He trips and is in a stationary position. He does not move as other people are passing him by. A younger Marcel passes by the older Marcel in this same position. He returns to present time and corrects his position.

Marcel is led into a room where he tries to find a comfortable position to sit in. He moves from chair to chair until he is back on the same seat he started in. He is served tea by a server. With the sounds of the spoon stirring in the cup we are transported to a train station in which the train operators are banging on the wheels on the train. He holds a handkerchief up to his face which prompts a cut to the teenage Marcel overlooking his oceanfront balcony. There is a statue on the beach which is carried off by six gentlemen. We see the same statue, only smaller, in the room where Marcel is drinking tea. He picks up a book which reminds him of the time he had been crying and his mother read that same book to him to help him sleep.

A ballroom filled with many guests opens and the crowd moves towards a room filled with sweets and treats. Oriane de Guermantes walks towards Marcel, not knowing it is him. She finally recognizes him and they exchange their hellos and memories. She warns Marcel of Gilberte being a tramp; not being worth his time to bring up conversation with. She explains Gilberte's infidelity was the reason that Robert enlisted. She says, “If you ask me, he wasn’t killed. He got himself killed.” He is then introduced to Madame de Farcy by Jacques de Rozier (Austin Bloch). Marcel then introduces him to Prince de Guermantes. Marcel then bumps into Marquis de Cambremer who is worried that he does not recognize him. He asks of the symptoms that Marcel is experiencing due to his illness, as Marquis is in the later stages. The piano being played causes Marcel to revisit the time when Albertine was playing the piano in their room.

Marcel beings to tell Albertine a story, but she does not seem to be listening. Albertine mentions Morel, which ensues jealousy in Marcel. She tells him of Charlus accidentally opening a letter addressed to Morel by Leá. She says that Leá and Gilberte were together. He asks if she was with Leá. Leá would send carriages to Albertine's house to pick her up. She asked Albertine if she really liked girls, to which Albertine replied yes just to mess with Leá.

Marcel is moved to tears as the violin and piano play in the ballroom. He smiles as he weeps. We observe the pianist and violinist play their ballad as the seating arrangements in the room start to shift back and forth as if they are sliding in the room. He is then greeted by Gilberte and her mother. She reminisces of the way that Robert spoke and his signature remarks. Oriane then asks Marcel if Gilberte was just playing a grieving widow act when they spoke. She is angry at her nonchalant attitude despite her husband passing away. Madame de Farcy engages in conversation with Marcel and Jacques once more. Despite Madame de Farcy being related to Mrs. de Forcheville, she feels close to her, however still dislikes her very much. She describes Mrs. de Forcheville as being like a rose that has been pickled. Throughout the dinner party you seen Madame Verdurin drifting in and out of the frame, each time coming back as either a younger version of herself or the older version of herself. Finally, we see Odette pass up Marcel, but come back apologizing for not recognizing him. Her husband asks her to leave with him, to which she responds that she has better plans. Gilberte comes back to talk with Marcel asking about his conversation with Oriane. Jacques urges Marcel to talk with him of something of great importance. Odette speaks with Marcel about her overprotective husband who takes away her freedom.

A younger Marcel meets with Odette and compliments his ability to be a gentleman. The grown-up Marcel finds himself in the same position as his younger self. A room full of hats on the floor, but it quickly becomes apparent that that is a dream as well. The older Marcel visits the younger Marcel and tells him of his love with Albertine and Gilberte. We then find both the younger Marcel and older Marcel travelling through different spaces in time throughout his life. Their last destination is the beach. We are read a quote from the sculptor Salvini. “My life has been a series of extraordinary adventures. To revisit them would only make me sadder. I’d rather use my remaining time to review my last work, Divine Nemesis, otherwise known as The Triumph of Death.” As the angel of death revisited to claim his life, he exclaimed, “What a paradox! You gave me enough time to revisit my whole life, which lasted sixty-three years. The same length of time was too short to review an object I made in 3 months.” The Angel replied, “In this work is all of your life and the life of all men. To review it would take an eternity.” We end with the present day Marcel walking towards the younger Marcel on the beach.



Release and awards

Le Temps Retrouvé was released in France on 16 May 1999. The film was one of the nominations for the 2000 César Award for Best Costume Design. The budget for this film was about $10.4 million, however its gross income from box office amounted to about $4.5 million. As of right now, the only source online to rent the film is Vudu.

Critical reception

The film was featured at the retrospective commemoration which was held at Lincoln Center at the end of 2016 which ran during the week ending December 22.[3] As stated by Richard Brody of The New Yorker at that time: "(This film) is also a triumph of classical cinematic values, reviving Proust's era with an obsessive attention to detail: the trim of mustaches and the cut of collars, a cortege of umbrellas straight out of a painting by Renoir, and hypnotically opulent furnishings seemingly borrowed from movies of the era. Many of Ruiz's films ... involve tricks of time and memory; working with Proust, Ruiz seems to mind-meld with him, raising his own artistry to exquisite new heights."[3] Frédéric Bonnaud describes Time Regained as "a film of old fashioned illusionism."[4] The New York Times article goes on to say that if there had been any reward for the film, it would have been for sheer ambition.[5] Many thought that it was risky to create a film of this work as the book did not exactly tell a story, but brought the readers around in circles. The film received a three and a half star rating out of four from movie critic, Roger Ebert. The film also received a 68% score on Rotten Tomatoes. While most of the critics spoke highly of the film's ability to bring the book to life, there were a lot of reviews complaining that the film had been a bore.


  1. "Le Temps retrouvé", JP's Box-Office.
  2. "Festival de Cannes: Time Regained". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
  3. Richard Brody (2017). "The Memory Card". The New Yorker, Dec. 19, 2016, p. 30.
  4. Frédéric Bonnaud (2000). "Proust Regained". Film Comment, July/August 2000, p.61.
  5. Janet Maslin (1999). "FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW; From Sickbed to Boyhood and Back, Echoing Proust". The New York Times, Sept. 30,1999.

Further reading

  • Michael Goddard, The Cinema of Raúl Ruiz: Impossible Cartographies (Wallflower Press, 2013), pp. 141-151.
  • Joanna Jaritz, Proust Cinématographe - Wie Raoul Ruiz Proust las (Heidelberg University Publishing, 2017). In German.
  • Vera A. Klekovkina, "Proust's souvenir visuel and Ruiz's clin d'œil in Le Temps retrouvé" in L'Esprit Créateur (Volume 46, Number 4, Winter 2006), pp. 151-163.
  • Guy Scarpetta, "Reflections on Time Regained (Raúl Ruiz)" in Michel Ciment and Laurence Kardish (eds.) Positif, 50 Years: Selections from the French Film Journal (Museum of Modern Art, 2002), pp. 274-284.
  • Marion Schmid and Martine Beugnet, Proust at the Movies (Routledge, 2004), pp. 132-167.
  • Margaret Topping, "Photographic Vision(s) in Marcel Proust's and Raoul Ruiz's Le Temps retrouvé" in Adam Watt (ed.) 'Le Temps retrouve' Eighty Years After/80 ans apres: Critical Essays / Essais critiques (Verlag Peter Lang, 2009), pp. 309-321.
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