A woman writing a children's fantasy story is constantly harrassed by visits and communications from people, who may or may not be real. When she and her husband pay a visit to their isolated, countryside retreat - her childhood home - her experience intensifies, and she resorts to drastic measures to eliminate the problem.Written by
Molly Rose Steed
An arty horror movie is the last thing one expects from Robert Altman - although, apparently, he had already tried it out with his earlier, little-seen THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK (1969). The writer/director (itself an unusual combination for Altman, but it shows how strongly he felt about the project) himself does not think of it as such and, in any case, reviews at the time were decidedly mixed.
Even if he was "inspired" by Ingmar Bergman's PERSONA (1966), the film actually feels closer plot-wise to Roman Polanski's REPULSION (1965). Originally intended to be shot in Milan with Sophia Loren, the film definitely benefits from its picturesque Irish locations and Susannah York's fragile performance (which eventually earned her the Best Actress Award at Cannes) as a schizophrenic; she, too, was unusually committed and actually allowed a story for kids she had written - called "In Search Of Unicorns" - to be incorporated into the narrative!
The film features only five major characters and, interestingly, these are named after each of the actors themselves: so Susannah York plays Cathryn just as Cathryn Harrison (Rex's daughter, a very natural performer who later featured in another strange film - Louis Malle's BLACK MOON ) plays Susannah; Marcel Bozzuffi's character is named Rene', Rene' Auberjonois is Hugh and Hugh Millais is Marcel! Of course, all this fits perfectly well with the film's theme and the characters' penchant to exchange 'faces' with each other in the mind of the disturbed protagonist; actually, this concept is pretty frightening because the lead character at one point decides to get rid of her 'ghosts' - but, not having a complete grasp on reality, one is never sure whether the victims are mere figments of her imagination or else real people!
Also essential to establishing the film's unique mood is Vilmos Zsigmond's stylish cinematography and John Williams' stark yet evocative score (interspersed with eerie sounds provided by Stomu Yamash'ta, a Japanese sound designer); even though his work here is galaxies away from Williams' renowned anthemic scores for the likes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, he still managed to earn an Oscar nomination for it!
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