What the hell did I just see?
Anyone who has ever gone through a heart-breaking, traumatic relationship deconstruction will understand this movie’s message. What do we do when our faith…in love, in our partner, in our ideals…slowly dies? Do we allow our faith to die? Or do we intensely and insanely hold onto it…allowing it to manifest in places within ourselves and within other people in which it can’t possibly be found. Asking the world to come along such a dysfunctional journey will only lead to indiscriminate mass destruction.
In this movie, Mark and Anna (Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani) are a couple slowly going mad with guilt and sadness due to their dying relationship. Their son suffers for their neglect. People around them die and are sacrificed to their futile attempts to reclaim their faith and ideals. And some really intense scenes involving a tentacle monster are born!
Throughout the film you discover that both people are nurturing relationships with idealized versions of each other. Mark meets his son’s school teacher who is Anna’s Doppelganger (also played by Adjani). Anna nurtures a monster who she sees as her ideal mate.
In the finals scenes, Mark leaves his son, Bob, with his schoolteacher (Anna’s doppelganger) in a last-ditch attempt to save his wife. As he tries to cover up some of his wife’s murders he manages to get shot repeatedly, as well as give himself a bad case of road-rash on a stolen motorcycle. Limping and bleeding, he returns to the apartment where Anna had been harboring her creature only to find that the creature has transformed into his sociopathic doppelganger.
In a standoff with the police both Mark and Anna die in each other’s arms as the doppelganger creature escapes. Full of charisma and perversion he manages in an instant to turn a sweet young woman into a cold-blooded killer. He is the version of Mark that Anna had created. This leads to me to think that the director wanted to comment on how all women, ultimately, want to be with monsters. She had her husband but was bored with him and in a sad confession to herself…she created something she never wanted to admit that she wanted. A sociopathic, manipulative, murderous, charismatic picture of the worst and basest characteristics of man.
Mark wanted to see the sweet school teacher as Anna. She may not have looked anything like her in reality, but he only ever saw Anna’s face. He wanted so badly to have that perfect woman, perfect relationship, perfect love.
After Mark and Anna die the monster goes directly to the school teacher’s house. Bob screams and pleads for her to not let him in. Somehow he knows that his parent’s failures would be the end of him and his innocence and ideals, as well. The house shakes as if it is the apocalypse and Bob drowns himself before his abomination of a father can destroy the ideal Anna and himself.
This film ends up being an allegory for divorce, the truths we withhold, and the ways they manifest themselves in destructive ways.
** end spoilers**
Isabelle Adjani is amazing in this. Even though she screams for a good portion of the movie (and caused my girlfriend to pop her head into the room a few times to see what all the commotion was about), her portrayal as a desperate and seemingly possessed woman is amazing. She’s gorgeous, mostly in the scenes where she is insane:
And she shines in a scene (shot continuously in one take with a hand-held camera) where she has a complete breakdown in a subway tunnel for what seems to be 3-5 minutes. I tried to imagine what it would be like to prepare for that scene and perform with such reckless abandon. Apparently it is not easy, since the experience of filming this movie haunted her for years and caused her to swear off these types of roles forever.
I wouldn’t watch this again…I don’t think I can handle it. But if you have the chops, I would highly recommend it. The scenes of domestic violence were more than disturbing to me…I had to fast forward some scenes which is rare for me. But some scenes resonated so deeply within me I was uncomfortable (no, I’m not talking about the tentacle-sex scene…weirdos).