Directed by Agnieszka Holland, Total Eclipse depicts the turbulent and absinthe-soaked relationship between the poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Their affair began in 1870 after a newly married Verlaine found Rimbaud living on the streets of Paris and invited the sixteen-year-old to live in his home.
Verlaine was captivated by Rimbaud's wild and uncontained poetry and personality and the two quickly became lovers. The film focuses on their tempestuous and explosive relationship, depicting violent outbursts such as Verlaine setting his wife's hair on fire, Rimbaud stabbing Verlaine, and Verlaine later shooting Rimbaud in the wrist. Some of the dialogue is adapted from Rimbaud's own writings: after stabbing Verlaine, Rimbaud declares, "the only thing unbearable is that nothing is unbearable."
Despite the esteemed cast and director, the film received poor box-office turnout and lukewarm reviews. Most discussion of the film has superficially centered on its nudity and sexual content, especially that of Leonardo DiCaprio as Rimbaud. However, the film gallantly attempts to portray an extraordinary relationship, an astonishing tale that cannot help but feel unbelievable at times.