Its hard to speak about this film in words other than those of praise for its filmic qualities. In terms of the overall all theme of the film one can dissect its levels of ambiguity that lead to the uncovering of universal truths. Rohmer is is able to set-up distinct dichotomies between religion/piety and athesim/freedom, light and dark and men and women. Rohmer seems to be somewhat more sympathetic toward the latter, but a proponent of the former. Perhaps he stands with the preacher for whom Christianity is a, ‘way of life’. The films ending casts a firm vote for form over freedom, but the way in which theme moves away from ambiguity in the direction of form, as opposed to freedom, seems to detracts from certain story components. Sex, love and marriage seem to present the problem.
Jean-Louis (the narrator) is initially an absorbing character, a provincial intellectual, with an air of world-travel and independence. There is no dis-juncture between him and the incredibly effective mise-en-scene. He is a particular man in a very specific place, as is his friend, Vidal, the urbane philosophy professor. They breathe the air of this provincial world as intellectuals with holds on themselves that counter each others motives. However, Jean-Louis’s distinction begins to slip early as does, Vidal’s during the night at Maude’s. There’s something about the way in which he loves the blonde and innocent Francoise; it seems too mundane, too easy and somewhat opaque, as if he’s quickly transforms into the default French male. The character almost comes off as being generic at times, one who exists to experience moral tests via love, sex and marriage.
Then comes, Maude (Basically a point-of view character) who is ultimately the opposite of,Francoise, with her dark hair and expansive identity that stands quest for the ultimate temptress and mediator to mens moral quests. She plays witness to mens pretenses, ‘lack of spontaneity,’ “stiffness,” secretiveness, clinical intelligence and their so-called moral victories. In other words Maude is simply being used as a challenging argument against freedom, and as a mediator of male form and morality. She is free at her own peril and carries the stigma of freedom, which she continues to bear five years later in terms of isolation and disappointment in dealings with love. She alone is not privy to Jean-Louis, his pre-selected bride, Francois, and their son embracing the seascape of salvation, their principles of faith, love and marriage. I felt that story was a metaphor of freedom. In the end, Rohmer suggests, the stakes regarding faith and love are the same: In an uncertain world, only the risk can bring reward.