The first, and almost certainly last, film footage of author Marcel Proust has been discovered in the French national film archives, France 24 reports. The film, which can be seen above, was taken at the 1904 wedding of one of Proust’s friends, Armand de Guiche, to Elaine Greffulhe. A man believed to be Marcel Proust walks down the stairs at 37 seconds into the clip.
Proust, who was 30 at the time, was known to have attended the wedding, and, being gay, was one of the only guests who came alone. The bowler hat and grey suit match descriptions of his wardrobe, plus the man looks exactly like Marcel Proust. “The silhouette and the profile match him, although it is always difficult to identify for certainty with a film of this type,” professor Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan told Le Point.
The author would probably have appreciated the way a few seconds of footage has conjured up a wedding he attended more than a century ago: The opening section of his life’s work, the sprawling novel Remembrance of Things Past, has a celebrated passage about the way smells and tastes can bring long-forgotten worlds back to life:
… when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring , more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.
Proust scholars believe the author was most likely rushing out of the wedding in order to scarf down as many madeleines as possible at the reception before the other guests could arrive.