Another example of Hogg’s associative approach is stylistic. The majority of “The Eternal Daughter” takes place at night. It’s dark and yet the darkness glows, a sickly greenish dreamlike light. From inside the estate, the windows glow green. The effect is otherworldly. It took me a second to locate the association with this color: it’s the color in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” another story of a cathected relationship, and surreal doubling, with Kim Novak playing a dual role (just as Swinton plays a dual role). The light reminds me (another association) of the great opening line from Sylvia Plath’s gloomy Gothic poem The Moon and the Yew Tree: “This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary.”
Sometimes Hogg’s work is self-referential, and you see the same symbols showing up. She is drawn to mirrors, doorways, halls, and figures moving in and out of the frame. These are “tics” but they come from an authentic place. There’s something, too, about how our influences aren’t separate from us: they are embedded in our psyches, and sometimes it’s hard to tell where the influence starts and ends. Hogg’s love of “old” movies, classic Hollywood, musicals, noirs, and Technicolor extravaganzas, is not immediately apparent in her first films, where the camera remains mostly static, where the style is controlled and deliberate. But if you go back to her first film, the short “Caprice” (starring a young Tilda Swinton), where a woman gets caught up (literally) in the pages of a women’s magazine, falling down a rabbit hole of advertisements and allurements, complete with a fully-produced music video, you can see Hogg working with her own influences, pouring them through her own sensibility. It’s why her work is fun.
“The Eternal Daughter” is about an emotional state more than anything else. The illusion that Tilda Swinton is both Julie and Rosalind comes wholly from Swinton’s sensitive specific dual performance. Hogg doesn’t use trick photography to place them in the frame at the same time. Julie and Rosalind are filmed in conversation, back and forth from one to the other. When they do finally appear together, it’s a sign that things are about to move into their final phase.
“The Eternal Daughter” feels like a first draft, or a sketch to be filled in later. This is perhaps reflected in onscreen Julie’s struggles to even write an outline. Hogg’s outlines, though, are more interesting than other people’s finished products. There’s always so much to think about.
Now playing in theaters.