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The Last Mile (1932)
"The Last Mile" begins on a powerful and emotional note, and never ceases to come through. In a way, it belongs in the company of "12 Angry Men," but while less demanding, may have even more feeling and dignity--with its singular lack of cynicism and romance perhaps the key to its force.
It begins with an introductory quote from Sing Sing warden Lewis Lawes: "The Last Mile is... a story of those men with barred cells crushed mentally, physically and spiritually between unrelenting forces of man-made laws and man-fixed death.... Society must find its own solution. But murder on the heels of murder is *not* that solution." We follow his words to the tender strains of the passionate "Ave Maria."
Sentimental? No, and not even in the relationship between the innocent Richard Walters and his devout mother, which is both original and convincing. And decidedly not in Joe Berg's incredibly moving goodbye scene, in which he arrests his immense emotional distress to speak face to face, transparently, and very specifically to each of the other men on death row in his last steps of his last mile. Nor is there a trace of sentiment in Sonny Jackson's deep soothing voice as he sings and speaks from both a spiritual and racially knowing place as he awaits, with true poise, his own death..
Of course, the raw and moving break out attempt led by John "Killer" Mears bears no trace of sentiment either. Despite his excessive recklessness, and crime-ridden past, none of his mates--including the guiltless Richard Walters who, having experienced Death Row first hand, is unencumbered by scruples--fail to follow his energetic leadership. For they all know that the death penalty is worse than death, and that even the condemned can speak out in one voice and one action. That they can arise as subjects just as Joe Berg did in the waning moments of his life, determined to stand against human cruelty, speaks of the courage of collective protest.
Prison Shadows (1936)
A Winning Quartet
In "Prison Shadows," the innocents (nature) seem more convincing and real than the corrupt (urban noir). No doubt it's the natural alliance of Gene, Mary, Bertie, and Corky that spark this somewhat quirky film.
This quartet may be mere dupes in a cranky plot, but they are not stereotypes. Joan Barclay (Mary) leads the way in undermining this possibility--and Monte Blue (Bertie) is right at her side. As a social unit, they may stumble their way into upsetting the plans of a corrupt, conspiratorial boxing ring, but they are never incompetent, nor do their shy qualities hamper them.
Bound by light humor, and generous dispositions, they are in marked contrast to the boxing clique led by the sinuous, rattling snake presence of the manager (Forest Taylor) who stands alone in his convincing evil, as his lackluster followers disintegrate around him. It's the lonesome outsiders pitted against slithery underworld capitalists, with genuine charm winning out.
But never a sentimental note enters their mutuality. In the final shot, when Mary and Gene finally embrace, Gene, now truly converted to her, cannot, having been blind to her qualities, fully engage her direct loving gaze. Instead, he casts a side look at the viewer, expressing a combo of unworthiness and gleeful good luck.
The Magdalene Sisters (2002)
It was male sexual license which brought the Magdalene asylums into existence. They were non-denominational safe houses for prostitutes and homeless women. Later, in the mid-nineteenth century the Church, in a alliance with the State, took them over. The goals were to continue providing services to "lost women," cover the costs through the work regime, and provide a social service to the State. In this arrangement, nuns, the lowest members of the Church hierarchy, served as the front line workers, and were no more party to the shaping of the institution, and its expanded client list, than were the rescued women they served.
So, there were three forces behind the Catholic Magdalene houses: the prostitute users and rapists who created the inmates, the State which hid both sexual license and its victims, and the Church which gained communal and moral sway.
"The Magdalene Sisters" snuffs this broader context, choosing to see the oppression and suffering through the reductive lens of personal sexual repression. The nuns are not viewed in any sense as co-victims or sisters to their charges but as authoritarian, sadistic old maids. Though they work from dawn until dusk with house, factory, and prayer work, their lives are viewed as hypertrophied. Even in their only human moment during the communal viewing of "The Bells of St. Mary," they quickly revert to their stepmother harshness. That sexual repression owns their actions, determines their person is specifically underscored in the villainous stripping game they force on the inmates, as if they were male screws in a women's prison.
If one had to choose the dominant symbols of sexual repression in western culture today, nuns, priests, women, and Catholic Ireland would no doubt first come to mind. "The Magdalene Sisters" pushes all these buttons--and sparks the film with some sexual scenes and sexual fun and games to boot.
The sex abusive priest exists in the same mold as the young rapist at the Catholic-ridden music event. Their acts are not so much the problem as is their sexual repression born of a puritanical Irish Catholicism. What the priest suffers for his act is a prank which divests him of layers of hypocritical clothing. The laughable strip tease is no doubt more popular and desirable to a modern audience than some "politically correct" form of public justice. But the exculpation of criminal acts is still in place, as it is in the case of that same violent rapist lad--to whom nothing at all happens.
Anyway, when the girls enter the gate, we're supposed to believe that their persecution begins right then. The world they have left behind (run by and for men) goes scot free, but the world they enter, a women's world, is a prison. The Sisters of Mercy are the torturers. And Mother Superior is the unbending warden, while nuns young and old, having suppressed all kindness, understanding and intelligence, are the merciless screws. Their incarceration techniques are are so effective that the State has washed its hands of its supervisory role.
The social context is replaced by the private narrative. The political is psychologized. Women are pitted against women. Freud's myth of sexual repression, so powerfully adhered to in Hollywoodland, displace sexual license, and the State's/Church's central role in protecting it.
In sum, Christ, a man, can understand Mary Magdalene; the Sisters of Mercy, working in the Magdalene homes, and all women, cannot. Because they are the scapegoat.
Ten Minutes to Live (1932)
Not Radio City
"Not Radio City" The grade. the grade! Normally it's 4 parts objective to one part subjective, but in this case maybe the reverse is in order. Because... this is not exactly a movie... and yet.. I guess it is more movie than anything else.
Part one carries more punch for me. And punch is the word. It's in the potent story line and in the nightclub entertainment that shares at least equal billing with it. But the two are not separate--at all. Both are dominated by women, sisterly women both on stage and in life.
The performing women have a kind wide-figured prowess which speaks a physicality that is more than sexual. They are up close, in charge... collectively insistent about the nature of their energy. Whether dancing or singing they demonstrate a particularity that drives them past normal showmanship. What we see in their nightclub is not "creativity" or "talent" or "the arts" but rather entertainment in its fullest sense, under rehearsed, stomping, athletic, energetic, steamy, and unrecorded.
The women actors carry a similar prowess that is outside the bounds of femininity. Their lines might seem over-rehearsed, but it is not so much how they speak, but what they say that is important. And the language they speak is one of resistance--a solidarity in the face of men's lawlessness and exploitation of women. Or a language of gamemanship that can one-up the men's. Thus the ultimate revenge act is more communal than private.
******* As for part two, it's real hard to say what's going down. Very confusing and downright messy. (I guess one can sit back and take in the noir-ish street and train scenes, if so inclined)
Sudden Fear (1952)
Portrait of an Author-ess
Myra Hudson, in "Sudden Fear," has a self-directed life: she's a successful playwright, an heiress in charge of a large fortune, and the center of an artsy San Francisco social circle. She's an astute professional, sharp, intense, dignified, and absorbed in her career/life. However...god forbid, she ain't married.
So a second life plot opens up for her when she encounters Lester Blaine--the actor she has dismissed for not being "a romantic leading man" for her most recent smash Broadway hit. As a woman of around 40, she doesn't possess the social or personal props to confidently slip into or deny romance or marriage, and most certainly is typecast as an old maid, if not by all the world, than at least by the calculating mind of Lester Blaine, who must rely on her desperation to wield his narrative.
For when Blaine enters her train (to San Francisco) he starts a train of events, none of which will be in her favor. His "play," which might be called "Halfway to Hell" displaces her "Halfway to Heaven." It will understandably seem to Myra, and to a lesser extent the viewer, as a light romantic drama. For despite his raw physicality, his shifty demeanor, Lester manages to appear mild in manner, polite, and poised past any vengeance for what appeared to be a massive ego slight in his bolting stage exit. He's also surprisingly literate--and rather convincingly romantic.
At least enough to easily win Myra over. For he represents to her a lucky chance at a long missed passion. Her receptivity is so apparent that it even worries the train porter who helps the blissful couple out with Blaine's little confidence game. And Myra's descent to type is soon furthered by her quickened sympathy for Lester's life story (he's the son of a coal miner--a war vet who played sad Lenny in "Of Mice and Men")--his standard expectations soon becoming hers.
She glides along, accommodating herself to his charm, his fun sporty ways; introduces him to her fancy social set, and even arranges a party for him. Which he uses to accelerate his marriage trap, by staging, through his absence from this devotedly prepared celebration, his immense unworthiness in Myra's life. "I am no match for you." "I have no proper place in your life," he tearfully exclaims, baggage in hand, looking down on her from atop his staircase, in his most self-pitying display.
Which Myra is not only duped by, but which calls out her deepest passions: "Without you, I have NOTHING." As in no career, no success, no life; as in love super-ceding her whole existence. His charade has paid off, for Myra is flat out susceptible even to so obviously a phony, an inapt, a suitor.
No wonder Lester's certainty and suavity. No wonder he has no need to confide in her, inquire into her career, nor even respect her professional's authority. One irony is that the "good actor" doesn't have to be a very good actor at all in his own 'play.' Another is that a well-established upper class arts professional cannot begin to opine on a lower class fledgling actor. So it is, that Blaine can disarm her mind, her work, her name, her money, her independence all by a simple, casual plot.
But the powerful obloquy of the single state combined with Lester's male prerogatives, are not solely responsible for Myra's capitulation. Because her own social power, while it may not affect Blaine much, can work against her. She senses herself in charge despite all her accommodations to him. She is also too confident to question her take on him, even when it's clear that her lawyer, friends, and even Irene, Lenny's ex, do grasp his intentions. Indeed fame can offer a bit too much hubris, as in Myra quoting Nietzsche's "live dangerously" to spark Lester to action. To which he counters: "He's dead." But thanks to the twists and turns of the suspense portion of "Sudden Fear," we soon learn that Myra's identity, as thin as it may seem under the pressure of romance, is not squelched. For Lester's demonic play/plot begins to unravel, thanks to Myra's (the writer) Dictaphone machine. And, if with too many tortuous steps, she does begin to exhort her previous authority.
In the end, she grasps that her courage for revenge, is a means and not an end (she cannot obliterate Blaine or herself) in confronting and recapturing her abandoned identity. Which in the film's final moments: "It's Irene, STOP!" is even amplified through her powerful desire to save the sinning femme fatale--another typecast woman, one who is being mistaken for herself--from her own intended death sentence. She can't save this unknown sister, but she now purposely strides through the deserted, sinister street, alone, but a bold author once again.
La sarrasine (1992)
Good But Too Pat
"La Sarrasine" does deserve credit for its general conception, some of its acting (Ninetta, the wife; Pasquale, the "musician;" Lamoureux, the Italians ally; the sympathetic reporter; and Nick, the young Italian boarder, often help create distinctive, memorable scenes, and embody roles that others merely suggest), its low key approach--but only when its stuck to, and the journal writing aspect of the narration often adds warmth and caring to a generally gray, depressed, and cold scenario.
But more to the point is this Canadian film's many lapses. First, the title is more than just incoherent. The viewer must assume that "the Saracen" refers to Clorinda, the lover/victim of Tancred, in the Italians Montreal puppet show. But how does this align itself with the racial discrimination story on the screen? Is Guiseppe, the protagonist, supposed to be in Clorinda's position, and how are his French victimizers supposed to be Tancred? No way. Brain strain from any angle.
Second, "La Sarrasine" is far too instructional, and linear to make convincing the plight of Italian immigrants in Quebec. Except for Lamoureux, the French are viewed as narrow-minded, puritanical bigots; while the Italians, except for Guiseppe's defense committee (viewed as dry politicos) are embracers of life, liberalism, and a sexuality, which is contrary to the period. And so we get handed us a harsh French priest who sees Montreal as "a cesspool" and an ice cold Mrs. Lemieux who must be the extreme opposite of her Italian counterpart and her liberal brother.
Then there is the pivotal crime scene. Are we to believe that Guiseppe, with all his patience, leadership qualities, and tolerance cannot fend off a drunken greengrocer (shown as out of character monster) without shooting him dead? And why didn't he call the cops, as he threatened. Is it his stereotypy Italian hot temper which subdues his vaunted reason? No wonder his actions are off screen and no wonder they sound staged.
To Ninetta, Guiseppe's wife, his action is irrational and perhaps related to his own bullying of her. Yet, and this is another problem, her sustained battle to save her husband is the story's center. Yes, it makes sense on the level of duty--and her self-sacrificing commitment may feed the narrative, but does not give it life.
For Ninetta's strongest passions are on behalf of herself, both in opposition to her too authoritarian husband, and in her desire to maintain what independence she has achieved (5 boarders, puppet work, secretary) in Montreal--far away from the dependency of her old world family. Yes, living her own life does include supporting and being near her imprisoned husband, but except for the one scene when she laughs ticklishly in bed, whatever love she bears for Guiseppe must be indirect (note his constantly shifting tense eyes) and certainly must be deficient in passion (he slaps her across his jail cell).
But the flatness in "La Sarrasine" exists also in the stagy scenery, and a kind of enveloping grayness of landscape, both mental and physical. Many of the interior spaces seem strangely empty as do many street scenes. And the relationship between the Italians and the French, both at the bottom of the social ladder, seem too grim. The French, apart from Lamoureux, are drawn as way too narrow both in their religious and cultural attitudes and postures.
Missing in "La Sarrasine" is a moral center. Partly, I think, because it shuns the complexity of the political for the simplicity of the personal. Surely the true racist impulse in Montreal does not begin with the French or more accurately, the Quebecois. Who rules Canada? Certainly the French are as oppressed by the English, as the Italians by the French. But this is obscured by the narrative. And the journal mode, while offering some warm and human moments, foregrounds the focus on a few overly-dramatized, and rather extreme lives. Ninetta is even made to displace the whole defense committee and its fund-raising, which might have been shown to bring the two communities together. But no such public statement is made by the film, so that the private place where the viewer begins is precisely where she or he ends up.
Mat i syn (1997)
Not Every Mother's Son
"Mother and Son" is a film about solitude,self-knowledge, and death; and the contingency of the body as central to each. In other words, it shows that human-ness means an integration between the body and the self; that there is no self apart from the body; and that the love of another must embrace the self /body as one.
Sokorov's mother-son intimacy does, I think, occur, but it must be all but non-existent in western culture, especially in its films, and literature. So, it is incredible to view this silent feat.
I think much of "Mother and Son's" success lies deeply in what it refuses: modernism, post-modernism, Freudianism, doublespeak (violence is love), cynicism, misogyny, male detachment, and abstract freedom.
What "Mother and Son" accepts is an approximate equality between a woman and a man. Yes, it's the son's nurturance which compels our attention, but he's only returning what he's received. What has been her entire life as a mother and teacher, has in this short period of her illness and death, become his life--and he embraces it fully and ordinarily.
The mother's and son's mutuality is actually pretty profound. They have the same dream, share the same silences, humor, touch, and gaze. Each takes their cue from the other, compelling each other's attention in face to face, or head to head, communication. They enclose and disclose each other with a kind of certainty which comes both from their shared solitude and their loyal affection.
In a certain sense, their companionate relationship bypasses their mother and son roles. Although her concern and worries on his behalf are real, she has in some sense given herself to his care. But not to the care of the family head, not even to the care of a man--his transforming bond with her no doubt severing his bond with men and to male identity--but to the care of an equal who may be as close to her as to a daughter, and whose affection is removed from control and power. Galatians 3:28 reads "there is no male or female," and here in this indeterminate world, removed from public demands and interpretations, this appears possible.
But there's no abstraction in this intersubjectivity. The son is not just nurturing; he does what a mother does in these circumstances. He cooks, he keeps house, he deals with all the details; he grooms and cleans his patient; he carries her on walks, and he reads to her from dusty postcards. In short, he looks to her physical and spiritual needs--in a consoling, innovative, and certain manner.
It is the very liminality of their present circumstance that enlarges their experience, of one another, and of their own specific lives. (The monastic ideal never vanishes). Poverty, isolation, and illness seem to root them in being, in a fruitful solitude, allowing them an inner quiet to reflect and ponder life's design, their anxiety, and the nature of consciousness.
The son's final walk is like a rite of passage. This time he walks, jogs, runs over much of the earlier terrain but now it takes all his courage and honesty because now solo, his course is uncharted. Painful contemplation under ancient tree trunks, gazing out to sea... these seem mother symbols, and spell out a continuity in the discontinuity which is his mother's death. The pilgrim knows through his growing self knowledge that his way will now be hard, but that despair will not take hold. He knows that his dead mother hears his words: "We will meet. Wait for me. Be patient, wait for me."
Le journal d'un suicidé (1973)
The Eves of Alenated Men
The "Diary of a Suicide" is visually riveting, lyrical, its faces compelling. Its worldview is transcendent, non-historical, myth-based world--one of alienation, war, torture, anomie, and disorientation. However despite the dead-end despair, the suffering of all the characters, the males ones-- the tour guide, the actor, the jailer--maintain their freedom to control and dominate. These men never cease serving their own interests. In fact, they uphold their subject status through the presence of the women they objectify.
The three "brave" male souls living without meaning or values are in many ways meshed together as one. They get to tell the story within the other's story within the other's story. They are the speakers, the viewers, the actors, the possessors. Each is grafted to the same universal world view which permits them to survive off an "other," who isn't responsible for the mess of their world. Their stories may be biased and partial, but they stick, and perpetuate more such stories, because whatever power is left in this futile, and nihilistic world, belongs to men.
The ship's tour guide's estrangement, for example, doesn't translate into a passivity around women. He observes, intrudes upon, manipulates, eroticizes, seduces, and mystifies the ship's blond interpreter. He studies her to get to her. He is the knower, she the known, the interest that keeps his manly status intact in the face of his ennui. That she turns out to be disfigured--not a sign of depth as in the one-eyed Einstein--behind her wide sun glasses, offers him one more chance to further his power over her in the form of rejection.
The actor fights off the godless world via a powerful ego which is fed by his wife's Edith Piaf-like performances. His very isolation seems to intensify his self-importance as he relates his stories of death, decay, and destruction. And he seems to have an inscrutable connection to the jailer whose suicide appears to directly touch off the death of his own wife.
The jailer is more oppressed than the other men. He's a victim of a cruel and pointless war which leaves him with permanent brain damage., and an absolute sleep incapacity. He does have a singular memory--that of the face of a loving prostitute. Yet despite this very specific and passionate vision and despite his anguish and own personal oppression, he has no identification or sympathy with his prisoner. She is someone he observes, someone under his control, as he stands there above her composing his own diary.
His suicide itself is as much an act of sadism and murder as it is self-destruction. Since, he makes it a crapshoot as to whom he kills, his terrorized prisoner or himself, it is no wonder, that he kills both himself--and the actor's wife. But the actress' demise does not just replace the lucky anarchist prisoner because now bereft of her 24 hour guard, she will soon be dead herself, and thus be the second death caused by the jailer's suicide.
The guide, the jailer, the actor--and the male anarchist, are indeed inseparable. They are joined by their manipulative power over women. They keenly hear each other, but not women--exploiting their listening capacity as they do their bodies. They are both emotionally detached and socially detached--on a ship, a stage, in a prison. But not detached from each other--they may be worlds apart, and yet share the unity of disembodied subjects under the auspices of traditional male power.
For sure, women are the listeners to and facilitators of men's language. They are framed out of their stories, existing rather as the scenery, the scenes, and the seen. Their bodies exist merely for sex, voyeurism, and display. Their faces for adoration, allure, and sheer beauty (the anarchist must spend most of her prison day on her makeup). The interpreter, gets to be frigid, the anarchist to be twisted, and the actress to be eviscerated and hysterical. In sum, they get to be projected as death, decay, and disintegration in a world made by and for men.
Is the refusal of male touch a crime? a disease? If so, who says so? Who has the right to say so? A sexologist? A psychologist? Both of these "experts" are obsessed with female "frigidity." They see the "frigid" woman as a challenge on the one hand and an interesting specimen on the other. Why? Because they are frightened by the mere thought of independent women.
In Hitchcock's "Marnie", it is a successful businessman, who employs the power and authority of the twin practices. He performs the "science" of the former, and religiously reads the texts of the latter. In other words, he is a gentleman who, as is his custom--with a little boost from sex expert, will have his way with women. What he believes he needs, is what he demands. The more resistant and repulsed the prey, the more thrilling and imperial the predator.
In such a scenario, social reality must be brushed aside so that psychology can prevail. Marnie is not viewed as a victim of sex abuse and rape but rather as suffering from the traumatic memory of a bloody defense of her mother. In fact, all the material conditions of Marnie's upbringing (poverty, neglect) are shunted aside--except as a point of her further vulnerability. That her mother just happens, mind you, to be prostituted, and battered on behalf of and defense of her daughter is thus of no interest to sexology, psychology, Hitchcock, or Mark Rutland, nor is his her iron-willed male resistance or her general state of violation.
The frigid blond daughter is the prize, the star, the sexologist's dream girl. She is the one worth saving--for men, for "science" She has a destiny as a wife, as an object, as a trophy. Her therapy, which includes a honeymoon rape, is crucial to her subordination, and to her reprogramming. Her "inhibitions" must be repressed if she is to learn Correct Sexual Behavior.
What say is Marnie's in all this? None, she is silenced. She is free to be forced. She's no more than Mark's foreplay, an end for his relentless pursuit. It's prison or marriage/sex so she can only surrender to his life. Yet this is a woman who has the guts to pick up a gun and shoot her own injured, very dear horse. She's a woman who has existed for years on her own, living off her own wits and talents. Her language, her mother's language, sometimes reach a fully libratory key, a passionate rage which few viewers can deny, dismiss, or scorn.
But Hitchcock's offers his full weight to Mark Rutland. In mock tribute, he give her the movie's title. For to both men, independent women are an anathema. (Mark is magnified in the final shot, Marnie shrunken)
La femme de Gilles (2004)
True To Form
Gilles' Wife True to Form "Gilles' Wife" has few words, and even less world, but it does have form: it says: the way to oblivion is oblivion.
Elisa's diminishment begins with her name: not only does she surrender her last name in marriage, but she makes no claim to her first. She is Gilles' wife. That's his view, her view, and the town's view. He's known, she's hidden.
He works in a steel mill, she does all the work of the household, which includes raising three children, cleaning floors on hands and knees, wringing out the laundry by hand, shoveling snow, raking leaves, cooking and serving meals, and anticipating Gillies every need. She's the good faithful wife.
This is the role she accepts, the bond she makes. She loves him as herself. For sure, her specific reading of her position is both typical and unusual mainly because Gilles is both utterly predictable and non-stereotypical. Yet her loyalty can be carried to the point of self-annulment as when she spies for him on her own sister (his lover), and more incredibly, when she attends to his batterer's thirst before she does her sister's battered bloodied face.
When Gilles is around, and he's around a lot for a worker, he takes up space in a way somewhere in between a corned-up Wordsworth peasant and a porned-up Tennessee Williams stud. He looms large in his pedestrian household, and much larger in bed where his thrusting, top heavy, sometimes rapacious, and sometimes brute sexuality is assumed. In one of countless bed scenes, he all but rapes his fully pregnant wife, his forced entry occurring in on key with his "no danger" sexologist's advice. There is no "yes" for her because there is no "no" for her. Gillie's oppressiveness is exercised on an intimate level.
His control of his her world is pervasive and effective, his authority godlike. His means include violence, and myriad forms of manipulation which allow him to obscure his power over his wife. He makes the gratuitous provocation of an affair with her younger sister seem natural, normal, and righteous. The sexual possession of both serves as a mechanism to sever the supportive friendship between the sisters.
And when his terrorizing and mania bring his affair to a disastrous end, he appropriates his wife's emotional being, feigning muteness and tears. When he finally resigns himself to the loss of his jeweled possession, he offers no apology or even admission of his assault, demeaning verbal attacks, and death threats toward her, instead 'confessing' only his own 'loss': "I ruined all the happiness I had" for a "good for nothing" woman.
Despite Eliza's strange adoration, and apparent masochism, she is never without doubt as to her husband's true nature. Her inexpressivity is telling, even from the opening bed scene, and her sensed thoughts display more dispassion than enthusiasm. In the dance hall scene, her repressed seething at his open betrayals and her own non-entity status, cannot be ignored--except of course by him. When she loses it in the garden scene, in her new son's presence, we grasp that her tolerance and restraints have limits. The gaps in her faith are tiny but real: she is not always responsive, not always deferent.
At one point she seeks explicit help in the confessional. She pleas: "I don't say a word (to him). If I yell at him (over his affair) he will leave me." To which the priest responds: "refrain from any kind of revolt against the Lord." God's will and her husband's will are one. Her stares at the wounded Christ on the church walls can only point to self-sacrifice. Jesus is for her; and Gillies is her cross.
But the confession is one concrete, public step: add on her husband's phony conversion to fidelity and the unraveling has begun. Her bond to him is weakened too by his having displaced her identity by adopting her emotions. Perhaps her mother's banishment of Gillies from the family home has further bolstered her resolve. Whatever, the crucible of her existence is exerting a relentless pressure.
And she soon recognizes that her life is unavailable to her, that she has been systematically undermined and used by the coercions of bed and home, that she has been cut off from both her sister and her mother, and yes that her husband is no more than a shirt--one that, like his concealed life, she will never launder again. But because he is the norm whose sway exceeds his harem world, she can sight no exit. So stepping carefully into the upstairs window frame, she gradually, as if in unison with the natural world, makes a graceful descent. But even lying on the paved walkway, she is beyond immediate help: "go get Gilles," is what is said by the bystanders.