Let’s start the review by The Eternal Daughter saying this disturbing mystery of the director Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir) sees Tilda Swinton in a fascinating performance as a woman forced to confront memories of the past as she visits a strangely empty old manor.
The Eternal Daughter, Joanna Hogg’s latest feature film (The Souvenir I & II), confirms the director as one of the great explorers of the memory of cinema.
A surprising version and full of suspense of Victorian gothicHogg’s film weaves his characteristic spaces haunted by the past, complex family dynamics and traces of autobiography into an enchanted and expressionist vision.
The film begins in a dense and eerie fog. Middle-aged daughter Julie (an amazing Tilda Swinton in one of the greatest feats of her career) and her elderly mother are led through a formal tree-lined drive to their hotel, where they will spend quality time together, offering Julie the the opportunity to collect details from her mother’s past to make a film about her life.
Everything seems strange almost immediately, however, from an unpleasant receptionist (a perfect Carly-Sophia Davies) who refuses to grant them a good room despite the near-total emptiness, a seedy view, and disturbing noises at night – not to mention the decorations. traditional, but wisely used, with mirrors and portraits that multiply the attentive gaze of the camera. Below is the trailer published on YouTube:
The specter of loss
In the rhythmic and ritualistic nature of their days – with the repetition of work, dinner, dog walks and bedtime – the passage of time becomes more and more blurred and the film becomes more and more disturbing as long suppressed secrets emerge.
Elegantly shot on 35mm film in Panavision, with an evocative soundtrack and howling winter winds, the narrative of The Eternal Daughter it is suffused with the specter of loss and the remembrance of past thingsingeniously playing with the conventions of ghost story without abandoning a warm and beating humanist heart.
And of course, this is Hogg’s version of a ghost story, which means the eerie atmosphere is also occasionally interrupted by polite arguments and the necessary dry wit.
Memories are a funny thing in Joanna Hogg’s films, as the British director often struggles to separate the fiction from his real life. Hogg has spent the past few years immersed in her award-winning duology The Souvenir, a semi-autobiographical account of a young woman’s experiences in film school, covering doomed love stories, budding friendships, and a great artistic awakening.
“I’m afraid my real memories of my time as a film student and my relationships have been replaced by those films,” says Hogg. “I hadn’t watched them since they were finished, once it was enough for me to think of certain elements of those films as my reality. And they absolutely weren’t ”.
Maybe that’s why he created a ghost story later. During the post-production of The Souvenir: Part II, Hogg felt the need to immediately dive into something fresh, a project far removed from the deep realism of his last two films.
He wanted to do genre, “engage in that space of the imagination”. But this is a director for whom, again and again, cinema and life prove to be intertwined in an exciting way. So we have the resulting film, The Eternal Daughter, a ghost story no doubt, then rooted, to some extent, in Hogg’s relationship with his deceased mother, then expanded into a more otherworldly, elusive and expressionist film, playing the strong. and heavy bonds between mother and daughter.
She actually had the idea for the first time to explore the subject, in an even more memoiristic vein, more than a decade ago, but she pulled back from a pattern after feeling too guilty about making a film of the kind while his mother was still alive.
Over the next few years, his profile has grown—Exhibition and Archipelagowhich preceded the Souvenir films, also garnered critical acclaim — and, more importantly, reconnected with Tilda Swinton, who starred in Hogg’s first short in 1986. Swinton played a minor role in the two films. of Souvenir — even though their lead actress, Honor Swinton Byrne, is Tilda’s daughter — but she had to talk to Hogg again, especially mothers and daughters, while filming them.
And so it made sense for Hogg to cast Swinton for the role of Julie, a director, of course, who takes her elderly mother on the run to a Welsh hotel filled with family memories, where the past becomes disorienting and obsessively present.
We conclude the review of The Eternal Daughter by saying that Hogg and Swinton playfully explored how the film could be together, with the shortcut of knowing each other for decades. They had the gender freedom – to go beyond the relatively naturalistic constraints of a project like The Souvenir – and, with that, they had endless possibilities.
Hogg doesn’t even write dialogue for his films, instead collaborating with his actors once they are chosen. So Swinton was already in the trenches with the director, sculpting Julie and, in turn, her character’s relationship with her mother from scratch. For this, Swinton came up with a crazy idea, or maybe not that crazy, if you know it. What if she plays mother and daughter?
Tilda Swinton has already done it, more or less. We do not forget SuspiriaLuca Guadagnino’s artistic horror remake of 2018 in which we all thought he played two distinct characters, until it was revealed that no, he would actually play a third as well.
But while that bloodthirsty thriller came closer to the scary and supernatural, The Eternal Daughter considers its ghosts – and the characters walking among them – in a more plaintive sense.
Swinton taking on the two main roles turns out to be less of an exercise in cinematic deception and more of emotional intensity.
As Julie, Swinton wanders the corridors of the hotel with a calm and overwhelming sense of guilt, choosing the life of an artist over motherhood and dealing with her mother’s unhappiness as a result; as Julie’s mother, Rosalind – yes, you should note, the same name as the character from Swinton’s Souvenir – the actor becomes very reserved, as if he has some sort of secret.
Reuniting with DP Ed Rutherford for the first time since the 2013 show, Hogg found Swinton’s double performance deeply moving. Very rarely do the two characters appear in the same frame – it’s completely gimmicky as Hogg, Rutherford and Swinton have focused on the unique thematic terrain of mother and daughter sharing this fundamental part of each other. He wanted to be able to have a really direct and deep conversation with Tilda in these two roles, where we didn’t have to struggle trying to make it work for the camera, ”says Hogg. “We made some really bold decisions on how to shoot it.”
Hogg reveals to me an enduring fear of the dark, held back since childhood, and which he wants to deepen here. There is something after dark that is still quite scary at times.
It is not just fear of the dark or fear of ghosts, it is fear of oneself in a way, and therefore connection with the family.
Early in the trial, he asked executive producer Martin Scorsese to recommend his ghost stories; he suggested Them, by Rudyard Kipling, which Hogg says unlocks the dynamics of the film and then various others deeper into the production. He has seen so many different cuts in the film, and all of this was while filming Killers of the Flower Moon in Oklahoma.
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The Eternal Daughter
Review by Laura Della Corte
We conclude the review of The Eternal Daughter by saying that there is such closeness and tenderness in this film. It reveals itself in a moment when the mother briefly stumbles upon the restaurant table and her daughter is instantly alarmed by the possibility of her falling, and then turns that palpable alarm into something reassuring. The Eternal Daughter is a serious and gentle moment of self-disclosure for Joanna Hogg.
- A surprising and suspenseful version of Victorian Gothic, Hogg’s film weaves its characteristic spaces haunted by the past, complex family dynamics and traces of autobiography into an enchanted and expressionist vision.
- Elegantly shot on 35mm film in Panavision, with an evocative soundtrack and howling, winter winds, The Eternal Daughter’s narrative is suffused with the specter of loss and remembrance of past things, ingeniously playing with the conventions of ghost story without abandoning a warm and beating humanist heart.
- Swinton taking on the two main roles turns out to be less of an exercise in cinematic deception and more of emotional intensity.
- If one has to find a fault in this case it is that it seems to end too soon.