Film: Double Bill - Francois Girard, Director of `The Red Violin', on his ideal cinematic pairing
Thursday 08 April 1999
THE TENANT (ROMAN POLANSKI, 1976)
I WOULD have to test this double bill on myself before allowing anyone else to watch it, and see if I could cope; they each have an overwhelming psychological power. I might also have a psychiatrist wait for me outside the cinema - just in case the experience made me want to jump off a bridge. Only then would my friends be submitted to the experience. Both films deal with mental isolation. They each look at man's experience of suffering.
About one rather disturbed guy, The Tenant shows how this man can't cope with living in a new apartment, where he is convinced he can hear the previous tenant. The film is driven by this man's fears; it dives into his perturbed mind and his physical displacement. Also dealing with isolation, The Shining is about an entire family who spend one winter living alone in a huge house in the middle of nowhere. It is a very graphic portrayal of the disintegration of the father's mental health, because of this environment, and total paranoia.
The most striking scene, which really makes you connect with the characters' madness, is when the father is frantically typing on his typewriter. He is actually writing the same word: over and over, for many days. It's a very efficient expression of a man caught in the grip of insanity. It is a mental state that is also shown in The Tenant, but this film evokes even more of the horror of insanity. In one particularly disturbing scene, the tenant has gone through a glass window and is covered in deep wounds. He is almost dead after throwing himself out of the Paris apartment. But he is just strong enough to climb the stairs again, dragging himself up the steps one by one, so that once more, he can jump and try to kill himself.
These are very depressing films, which would justify having a psychiatrist on standby. I believe that when we are looking at these films we are watching a reflection of America's sickness.
I am very interested in the cumulative impact of the film medium, and this is something which started interesting me when I began to watch more than one film at one sitting. I believe that if you see five films together they coalesce as though they could be the same film. In other words, you can see more clearly the connections, almost as though the five films could be stitched together and make one big story. Ultimately, if you keep connecting films this way, you would end up with a pretty good picture of the universe. Remember: a film is never an isolated object, it is part of our lives.
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