"Life is a Novel"—Gothic novel, fairy tale and philosophical puzzle all in one seeming reputation of Napoleon's truism "la
vie n'est pas un roman" (probably his version of "life wasn't meant to be easy").
The film opens deep in the Ardennes forest at the turn of the century A man of great wealth, enraptured by a beautiful woman, plans to build a "Radiant City" for a higher order of mankind. But, World War I diminishes his fortune, the beautiful woman has departed, and all that survives of his dream is the Temple of Happiness, an eclectic piece of
architecture of monstrous dimensions.
Then the film takes us to 1983, the Temple has survived World War II and now houses a progressive school Experts are attending a seminar on "The Education of the
Imagination", they become involved in insults and disputes, until another idealist dream is put forward.
While their elders talk about it, three children left to themselves, begin to use
their imagination. A comic strip world of dragons, princes and damsels in distress springs to life with the Temple as its
background. Multi-faceted in subject and style, this is Resnais' most intricate film since "Last Year at Manenbad" (1961).