Together the women sleep on the streets or in late-night theaters, Marie claiming to be claustrophobic—perhaps understandable given her recent lock-up and necessary in order to explain why most of this film takes place outdoors, since shooting was less expensive than if Rivette had been made to use inner spaces and sets. Despite hooking up with the demanding love of Baptiste, Marie is seeking out a former lover, Julien (Pierre Clémenti), who shows up from time to time unexpectedly, taking Marie into his arms. But those arms seem no more protecting that Baptiste’s; Julien is attempting to quickly close a mysterious “deal” which, he assures Marie, will allow them to move away in order to lead a new life. Either out of jealousy or simple curiosity Baptiste steals Julien’s briefcase, replacing it with another, and thus bollixing up his clandestine deal. What the women discover within the briefcase is an odd assortment of Xeroxed newspaper clippings, various and unrelated lines marked in red—including a piece that mentions Marie. They return these to Julien on another of his sudden visits. They keep another strange document, seemingly a map of Paris but, according to Marie, is a little-known game she played as a child where in an apparently cabalistic pattern one arrives at various dangerous points in time and space: the inn, the tower, the bridge, etc, some resulting in imprisonment or death, others in the possibility of beginning the voyage again.
Finally at the bridge of the film’s title, Baptiste discovers a gigantic dragon, a marvelous construction that appears to be mix of a fire-spouting oil-derrick and a modernistic children’s ride, which Baptiste slays. Marie calls Julien, promising him the return of the map, while Baptiste, having stolen Marie’s gun, murders a man who had prevented her friend from entering the telephone booth. Finally confronting her strange shadow, Marie declares that her friend is insane and marches forward to wait for Julien, who, when he encounters, shoots and kills her, proclaiming “I loved you.”
Of course, there is no answer. Rivette’s film is not a coherent narrative, ready to provide an easy summary to its often obscure events. Rather, the director takes us on an exhilarating ride where he, as he puts it, “upsets people.” “The film must be, if not an ordeal, at least an experience, something which makes the film transform the viewer, who has undergone something through the film, who is no longer the same after having seen the film.” Once one has entered a Rivette film, all other films seem slightly ploddingly predictable, the script or story determining events. In Le Pont du Nord we not only do not know why things happen, but how they happened, or even if they happened. One might imagine, that like the magical game behind the character’s movements, that seeing this film again might allow us to create a very different perception of what we are witnessing—that Marie might just as easily dig deep into her purse and pull out another plot!