Total Eclipse

Character: Arthur Rimbaud
Directed by: Agnieszka Holland
Written by: Christopher Hampton
Produced by: Staffan Ahrenberg, Jean-Yves Asselin, Pascale Faubert
Other cast: David Thewlis, Romane Bohringer, Dominique Blanc
Release date: November 3, 1995
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Running time: 1h 51min

A sensationalized retelling of the Rimbaud-Verlaine story. The great French poet Arthur Rimbaud wrote all his poems, which continue to amaze and inspire to this day, during a brief burst of activity in the early 1870s, when he was just a teenager. According to Christopher Hampton's screenplay, it's amazing Rimbaud found time to write anything at all, since he was carrying on a torrid, absinthe-soaked homosexual love affair with the older and not quite so great poet Paul Verlaine. This affair ended when Verlaine shot Rimbaud in the hand in a Brussels hotel room. In this version of the story, it's also amazing that Rimbaud wanted to have anything to do with Verlaine, who is depicted as a utterly despicable human being.


Arthur Rimbaud

Arthur Rimbaud, born in 1854, a symbolistic French poet was born and educated in Charleville, Ardennes. When he was 16, he composed the strikingly original poem, “The Drunken Boat”, which he submitted to the poet Paul Verlaine who was very impressed by his work.. Verlaine invited him to Paris to visit the poet that had wrote such wonderful poetry. In 1872-1873 Verlaine and Rimbaud lived together in London and Brussels. During a drunken state Verlaine shot Rimbaud in the hand. In 1873, Rimbaud returned home after Verlaine was sent to prison and wrote A Season in Hell..

In 1880, Rimbaud became a trader in North Africa, with headquarters at H?rer and Shoa, central Abyssinia. Verlaine, under the impression that Rimbaud was no longer alive, published the latter’s poems in Illuminations (Les Illuminations). This work contains the famous Sonnet des voyelles (Sonnet of the Vowels), in which each of the five vowels is associated with a different color. In 1891, Rimbaud who was age 37, returned to France for medical treatment of a tumor on his knee which had to amputated; he died in a hospital at Marseille. On the strength of a few poems that he wrote between the ages of 10 and 20, Rimbaud ranks as one of the most original of all French poets. Rimbaud’s works were published by Verlaine in several posthumous editions, the first complete collection appearing in 1898.

Information gathered from Encarta and The Columbia Encyclopedia

Paul Verlaine

Paul Verlaine was born on March 30, 1844, in Metz, the son of an army officer, and educated at the Lycée Bonaparte in Paris. His early works, including Poèmes saturniens (1866), are characterized by the antiromanticism of the Parnassians with whom Verlaine was then associated; the verse is concerned more with technique than with feeling. In 1870 Verlaine married, but he left his wife two years later to travel and live with the 17-year-old poet Arthur Rimbaud. Verlaine shot and wounded Rimbaud during a quarrel in 1873 and was imprisoned for the next two years. The collection Romances sans paroles (Songs Without Words, 1874), is based on his life with Rimbaud and was written in prison. Also in prison Verlaine returned to the Roman Catholicism of his childhood; his reconversion is the source of a volume of confessional religious poetry, Sagesse (Wisdom, 1881).

Verlaine taught French in England from 1875 to 1877, then returned to France to teach English for a year. With his student Lucien Létinois, whom he called his adopted son, Verlaine tried unsuccessfully to be a farmer. Létinois died suddenly in 1883; Verlaine’s Amour (1888) is primarily about Létinois. The rest of Verlaine’s life consisted of alternating periods of drunken debauchery and ascetic repentance. With the publication of Les poètes maudites (Accursed Poets, 1884), a work of criticism, and of Jadis et Naguère (Long Ago and Not So Long Ago, 1884), a collection of verse, Verlaine emerged as a symbolist poet, concerned with dreams and illusion.

Verlaine thus exerted considerable influence on the French poets who followed him. The sound of his poetry is usually more important than its meaning; it is therefore unusually difficult to translate. He also wrote autobiographical prose, including Mes Hôpitaux (My Hospitals, 1892), Mes prisons (My Prisons, 1893), and Confessions (1895). Verlaine died on January 8, 1896.

Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Here are a few books that he wrote with his poetry

Arthur Rimbaud: Complete Works by Paul Schmidt (Author) (Paperback – April 2000)
I Promise to Be Good : The Letters of Arthur Rimbaud by Wyatt Mason (Translator), Arthur Rimbaud (Author) (Hardcover – November 2003)
A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat by N Rimbaud, et al (Paperback – February 1988)
Rimbaud Complete (Modern Library) by Arthur Rimbaud, Wyatt Mason (Translator) (Hardcover – March 2002)
Rimbaud by Dennis J. Carlile (Translator), et al (Paperback – December 2000)
Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa 1880-91 by Charles Nicholl (Paperback – March 1999)
Arthur Rimbaud: Presence of an Enigma by Jean-Luc Steinmetz, Jon Graham (Translator) (Hardcover – June 2001)
Arthur Rimbaud by Benjamin Ivry (Paperback – October 1998)
Arthur Rimbaud by Enid Starkie
Delirium: An Interpretation of Arthur Rimbaud by Jeremy Reed (Hardcover)
Arthur Rimbaud, texte int̩gral, oeuvres po̩tiques by Arthur Rimbaud (Author), Pascaline Mourier-Casile (Author) (Paperback РJanuary 1998)
Concordance to Oeuvres Completes of Arthur Rimbaud by William Carter
Arthur Rimbaud (Twayne’s World Authors Series, No 369) by Frederic C. St. Aubyn, et al
Season in Hell: The Life of Arthur Rimbaud by Jean Marie Carre (Hardcover – June 1979)
Prose Poems from Les Illuminations of Arthur Rimbaud by Jean N. Rimbaud (Hardcover – June 1932)

My Favorite Arthur Rimbaud Poem

In the winter, we shall travel in a little pink railway carriage
With blue cushions.
We shall be comfortable. A nest of mad kisses lies in wait
In each soft corner.

You will close your eyes, so as not to see, through the glass,
The evening shadows pulling faces.
Those snarling monsters, a population
Of black devils and black wolves.

Then you’ll feel your cheek scratched…
A little kiss, like a crazy spider,
Will run round your neck…

And you’ll say to me : “Find it !” bending your head
– And we’ll take a long time to find that creature
– Which travels a lot…

Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (1962)

Track Listing

1. The Opening
2. Trip To Paris
3. The Sea Quartet
4. Arrival
5. Cafe Andre
6. Hashish Kiss
7. Looking For Rimbaud
8. Naked On The Roof
9. Cafe Bobino
10. Hashish
11. Le Dormeur De Val
12. Coming Home
13. Triangle
14. Knife
15. The Sun
16. Mathilde And Verlaine
17. Two Trains
18. Verlaine Escapes
19. Rimbaud Wounded
20. Memory
21. The Sentence
22. Tear
23. Cafe Bobino
24. The Drunken Boat
25. The Abyssinian Plateau
26. The Death
27. Eternity (Finale)
28. End Credits

Goofs for Total Eclipse

Anachronisms: In the Café Andre where the adult Isabelle Rimbaud meets with Paul Verlaine, the typeface on the window is clearly in Helvetica, a typeface that was not created until 1954.


The Drunken Boat
Arthur Rimbaud’s Life and Poetry