Images (Altman, 1972)

The only way to describe Images is: Robert Altman does a horror film. I’m surprised I’ve never seen this on a horror list however, though distinctly Altman… The Shining is distinctly Kubrickian. I think unfortunately, auteurs who tackle genres tend to be neglected when the films genre is discussed. Is it because, filmmakers like Altman or Bergman (The Hour of the Wolf), have distinct styles that defy traditional expectations of the genre? Or is it the nature of genre that there are certain expectations that must be met? Yet, I’d still argue in both cases they meet most of the expectations I have of horror.

Images is a deeply unnerving film, a fantasy writer who finds reality breaking down around her. The audience is as unsure about what is going on as she is, wether or not what she’s hearing or seeing is there or not. There are elusive moments, and truths that seem to get in the way of the reality of her visions, but they are still flesh and blood. It doesn’t take long for her to accept them as part of her life, and there doesn’t seem to be a significant struggle with their existence. What troubles her, is that she’s never sure what happened, where and to who. She can never be sure who she is talking to, if anyone at all… and sometimes, she’s staring herself in the face and all she knows is that she needs to run.

Though on the basis of this, I know some people will still argue “it’s a thriller!”. It’s the brutality and horror of some of the violence that underscores that argument for me. However engrossing or crime-ridden a thriller, or even a crime drama may be, the violence is rarely horrific. In horror, there is a sort of morbid fascination with the broken body, and it’s often tied deeply with some sort of psychological ramifications. I realise I’m not articulating myself quite well… because I’m so unsure. Genre fascinates me, but my boundaries are never quite defined in the way I’d like. They’re almost ever changing, and I get caught up in semantics. Whatever, TANGENT!

Images is extremely disturbing, the movement and deceptive nature of Altman’s filmmaking work to compliment the film’s disturbed and restless nature. Even the changes in shot is jarring, and we never quite know what we’ll see next. Though the violence is disturbing, I think it’s really the reality of what seems to be the fantasies of Cathryn that’s the most chilling. They’re so REAL, more real than anything else in the film. The only times we are sure that something does not exist in her mind is when they seem flat. It’s as if what bores Cathryn, bores us. My favourite scenes in the film are all the very intimate ones between her and her lovers. I think it’s what makes her way of “dealing” with them, so incredibly creepy.

2 responses to “Images (Altman, 1972)

  1. I only know this one by name, and Robin Wood mentions it as one of Altman’s most ‘European’ movies (& I think he hated it, but I’m not sure!) but you make it sound intriguing.

    I don’t want to force a ‘reveal’, but I’m wondering if she’s dealing with her lovers in a “Trouble Every Day” sort of way?!

    Anyway, I’m glad you’re still using your October time wisely on horror films!

  2. It is very European, though it’s set in England, and written by an English-woman. So, it explains at least some of the flavour… the style itself, while still very Altman is a lot like Roeg’s work during the time. I understand the comparison.

    Not quite, but on the right track.

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