The crude world of There Will be Blood is replaced by the polished context of London, its good manners and social rituals.

A no less harsh reality, in certain ways

A wilderness of another kind.

Other obsessions and destructive streaks

Other phantoms

Other threads uniting the protagonists

Weaving and unraveling/raveling out the pattern


On the London stage as opposed to the Southern California arena

Another interesting triangle: Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril

And his model and lover (then wife) Alma, the outsider.

Manipulation and power anew.

The decorum of the manners and customs, the violence of the secret passions

The oppressive and stifling mood of the Victorian era against the backdrop of the 1950’s

Jealousy and longings; sighs and whispers.

The breakfast ritual enacting the denial of the material reality

Chewing, eating, drinking

Feeding on earthly food

Disturbing the willful erasure of the bodily needs.

The interlude of the New Year’s Eve Party

And its carnival of other masks and metaphors.


The narrative structure:

The flashback frame, hardly noticed at first

Then the movie plot catches up with the beginning

Before proceeding to an ending that is hardly satisfying

And leaves open the question of the confessional mode with the young doctor


Fairy tale innuendos, and intertextual resonances with stories such as “The Oval Portrait” or The Portrait of Dorian Gray

The artist (painter or dressmaker) and his sitter.

With a twist:

The muse reveals (like a photographic film exposed to light) the real personality of the apparently successful and confident ‘master’.

The elaborate designs of the dresses

And their complex making,

The androgynous figure of the sister,

A loved and lost mother,

The reversible roles in the family pattern

Alma as an occasional surrogate mother.


A wound and a secret weakness suddenly exposed.

The motif of the poison scene, an exchange of gazes

The mutual understanding and acceptance of death

The passion, the co-dependency.

Surrendering to her power

In near death he finds love,

The hovering ghost of the lost mother,

The physical ailment revealing the ailment afflicting the soul

Tormenting the memory and the heart


The theatrical and staged dimension of the visual effects

The pictorial editing and tight framing

Close-ups betraying the sensuality of the touch,

Some eroticism hardly kept in check under the professional gesture

The lingering hand on a beautiful fabric

The cutting and putting into shapes

The torn or stained material.

An elaborate choreography of gazes and moves,

And footsteps on endless flight of stairs.


Revisiting the gothic script

The notion of a curse

The sewing of a note in the lining: NEVER CURSED

The blend of the supernatural and the real

The universe of the Bronte sisters and Daphne du Maurier

Wuthering Heights, and its tale of passion across class lines

But also, more hauntingly,

Rebecca and its tale of murder and jealousy

The power of mysterious and strong women

Cyril/Mrs Danvers

Reynold’s mother/Rebecca

The staircase of the London home/Hallways and recesses in Manderley

A psychological and emotional chase.


The flirtation with bodily death against immortality through art

The surprising doubling effects

Strengths and weaknesses

And unexpected designs

With, or without, the thread and its phantom.


Et quand il est à s’en mourir

Au dernier moment de la cendre

La guitare entre dans la chambre

Le feu reprend par le chant sombre

Aragon, Le fou d’Elsa



Marie Liénard-Yeterian