Sunday, October 9, 2022

Familiar Ghosts

The Eternal Daughter (2022) - Hogg https __cdn.sanity.io_images_xq1bjtf4_production_25e9d3aa5b338cb55e5a31c542f1257d2e185161-5760x3840 A big black sedan rolls in the foggy English countryside. The sun is setting. Ominous flute piece is playing in the background. The car finally pulls up to a grand manor at dusk. If it weren’t for the car, you'd think of the opening sequence of The Eternal Daughter as the start of a Hammer Horror film or an adaptation of a Henry James novel. We are introduced to a mother, Rosalind, and daughter, Julie (both played by Tilda Swinton) and Rosalind's dog, Louis. They are arriving late to check in and the curt, young receptionist (Carly-Sophia Davis) has no records of them reserving the specific room on the second floor. After much polite haranguing, the receptionist relents and the mother and daughter finally settle in to the room they wanted. This is not a good start for the stay Julie was hoping for.

It is slowly revealed that Julie is a filmmaker working on a project about her mother and the grand inn they are staying in was once belonged to Rosalind's family. She has a lot of memories spending time in the place. Julie timed the visit as Rosalind's birthday and early Christmas celebration and mom seems pleased and sad at the same time. Julie wants very much to connect with her mom and please her but doesn't really seem to know how, other than superficial level. She is also at a loss on how to proceed with her project. And there is some supernatural occurrence in the manor that interferes with her work as well. Julie hears noises at night and can't sleep. When complained to the receptionist, she was told that the room above her has been vacant. Julie sees a ghostly figure at the windows while walking the dog outside. It also seems unusual that there are no other guests in sight other than her and mom. They dine alone and joke about sampling every meal on the menu in their stay.

Using the gothic horror trope, Joanna Hogg creates yet another meta-auto fiction about her own complicated relationship with her mother. Hogg's yearning for connecting with her mother through making a film about their relationship and feeling guilty about it at the same time, using the same actress playing those roles is in tune with real life mother-daughter team (Swinton and Rose Swinton Byrne) in Souvenir playing mother-daughter. Eternal Daughter takes the step further, yet getting no clear answers on finding out more about her own mother or closure of some kind she longed for. And that frustration is all illustrated in the film. After all, many of Victorian ghost stories are manifestation of repressed emotions and feelings. Swinton is glorious in a dual role in her white wig, pretty much carrying a conversation with herself. It is a subtly devastating performance - in many of the film's close-ups both as a mother and daughter, she conveys that nervousness of not trying to hurt one another, or in this case, herself, in that educated, polite British way. Hogg aces again.


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