How did Hitchcock overlook this film location?
Seagulls squawk for prey, the sounds of tarpaulins and awnings flap in the unrelenting wind despite being tied down for winter. On this desolate afternoon, the Benedictine Abbey’s bells toll as if time itself stands 10th century still as the Archangel Michel, patron saint of France’s kings, keeps watch over the island from his regal perch above.
Originally built in honor of the Archangel Michel, the Mont followed as a place of pilgrimage, later serving as a military garrison during the Hundred Years War and, until the mid-1800s, it was used as a prison.
I methodically wander the ancient stones of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, pausing at the one small cemetery where deceased island residents take their turn at rest. Mont Saint Michel is a mere 240 acres and I feel enchanted to hibernate here for a few nights, a temporary 45th resident among just a few day-trippers.
I dine on lamb that was nourished by the local saltwater marshes and visit Le Mère Poulard for its famous fluffy omelets, all satisfying my penchant for protein.
These are the particulars of the island, but it’s the transcendental feeling that captivates me – a granite fortress rising up from the treacherous quicksand surrounding it, and the tides that often surge in at one meter per second. The world disappears and I stand here, pensive. Again, during a French winter.
There are scenes in the French film “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly,” when the main character’s most poignant snapshots flicker through his mental vision as his life hangs in the balance. I believe this slideshow can happen even in our most lucid moments. Now, back in the city, with frivolity being the flavor of days, flashes of Mont Saint- Michel streak across my own vision, snapshots of what seemed a dream, as I hustle across modern ground.