To even try and describe or explain what happens in a Zulawski film feels futile and disingenuous. It’s a pastiche of oddities, wrapped in absurdism… the world, especially human relationships as seen through the eyes of an outsider. One can only assume the creator is an alien, understanding human emotion at it’s most grotesque and exaggerated. There seems to be no middle ground, and the subtlety lies in the blatant exhibition of humanity. There is something to be said for the “strange” actions and movements of the characters, they don’t behave as we do in the so called real world. There is a self-awareness, a blatant style of movement and awareness.
Distorted close-ups match up with distorted words, one character is losing the fundamentals of language, the other holding onto it only in trance, both quickly falling from an already shaky concept of reality. They fall in love with each other, a love that is at times tender and vulnerable, or else disturbing and overbearing. Blanche, a beautiful innocent, comes to a strange realization while making love (what seems to be for the first time) that love is very painful. Descriptive of her current physical state, it reflects an also confused and frenzied understanding of relationships.
Her own husband is a not-so subtle homosexual who, at times fights and beats her, because she is too beautiful. Her childhood memories of her own parents are violent and painful, and even early on the first couple to make it’s way onscreen are engaged in a something of a fist fight that dissolves in kisses and sweet nothings. Clearly over the top, this seems in part to be an almost child-like view of relationships, no sense of reason, only watching two people move from one state of mind to the next with no real conception of why. Though most filmmakers search or explore the “why”, perhaps Zulawski is asking “what” instead. What is love? Physical? Emotional? Both? How does one balance the two, and how far can we push the other until the pain becomes too much.
I’m not sure entirely what I think of this film, it didn’t flood me with emotion in quite the same way as Possession, but it’s certainly overpowering. Some scenes were perfect, the ones in the hotel especially.. though I think they were meant to evoke that heightened emotional glee. The film is all around engrossing, and often times troubling. There is no way to prepare someone for this film, especially if they have not seen a Zulawski… you have to open your mind and soul.