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 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
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