The Mysteries of the Chateau of Dice  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Les Mystéres du Château du Dé (English: The Mysteries of the Chateau of Dice) is a 1929 film directed by Man Ray. It depicts a pair of travellers setting off from Paris and travelling to the Villa Noailles in Hyères. At 27 minutes the film was the longest that Man Ray directed during his career.


To the Viscountess of Noailles. I dedicate these pictures which can never reveal the extent of her kindness and charm. How two travellers arrived in St. Bernard, what they saw in the ruins of an old castle on top of which a modern-time castle stands. The travellers: MAN RAY, J.-A. Boiffard.

The film opens from a night scene to two masked individuals at a cafe. They decide their actions on the role of dice.

A throw of dice will never abolish chance.

The hands are that of manequins, their faces devoid of detail. Before the throw, their destination appears on a hillside in the form of both modern and ancient castles.

Are we going?
We're not going
We're going!

And their journey begins. Departing from their cafe, they travel through the French countryside arriving a the town of Noailles and their destination to find the modern castle empty. Elements of the interior explore various spatial relationships and textures. The film shows sculptures by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, as well as exploring the unique Cubist garden at Villa Noailles.

After a while, we are introduced to four intruders who are in turn resigning their fate to that of the dice. Upon their throw, they depart for the indoor swimming pool at the villa and entertain the viewer with various diving and gymnastic movements, including a woman juggling underwater and exercising with medicine balls. Actors explore the villas confines, until they eventually retire, fading from the screen.

More moving shots of the villas external until two more travellers arrive at the location, again playing for chance within the garden. They proceed to stay overnight, bringing the film to an abrupt end.


Originally a silent film, recent copies have been dubbed using music taken from Man Ray's personal record collection of the time, including recordings of Erik Satie's Gymnopédies. The musical reconstruction was by Jacques Guillot.

The film was restored by the Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou under the direction of Jean-Michel Bouhours, Film curator.

Restoration of the nitrate prints of Les Mystéres du Château du Dé by Service des Archives du film (CNC) Bois d'Arcy.

Video editing by Didier Coudray.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Mysteries of the Chateau of Dice" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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