I’m Haunted By Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” Movies
Light spoilers for the two films below.
Joanna Hogg’s movie Memory contains one of the most devastating lines I’ve heard in a movie. Over champagne in a sweltering hotel while planning a trip to Venice, Anthony (Tom Burke) tells Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) about the former girlfriends he visited the city with, which spirals Julie up but asks for more information. Anthony said, “Stop torturing yourself. Stop asking me to torture you. It’s a fleeting moment, but it’s so filled with truth it’s breathtaking.
Maybe we haven’t all been in a Bad Romance, but Hogg’s cinematic universe in his films Memory and Remembrance II (out now) manages to feel both specific and universal. In the role of Julie, Swinton Byrne (yes, daughter of Tilda, who plays her mother in these films) plays an aspiring director who is completely detached from her first love affair with the eldest, infinitely charming and troubled Anthony. She, of course, is crazy about him. This romance has pervaded every facet of Julie’s brain and her friends complain about how she has kept them and her schooling at bay.
The films also have a meta aspect through which Hogg, through Julie, explores her own coming of age as a woman and an artist. She doubles that in Remembrance II, in which, following Anthony’s addiction and sudden death, Julie must face her grief and understand what was reality versus fiction in their tumultuous relationship; she deals with all of this through her work as a director. Just like the first movie, Remembrance II doesn’t have a traditional plot per se – but a Joanna Hogg movie isn’t about plot, it’s about sentiment.
And the sentiment permeates everything from the first use of Nico’s song “Sixty / Forty,” which resonates throughout the film, to Swinton Byrne’s luminous performance. It’s remarkable to watch Julie go from her first detective work to heartache and heartache to find out who Anthony might have been. Anthony’s presence is looming on the horizon – a first love so huge, so destructive that at the start of the film, it’s hard to see how Julie will fare. For Julie, like Hogg, finding a way out of a consuming heartbreak means turning the relationship into a movie. Julie carefully rebuilds the walls of her apartment and chooses actors to play herself and Anthony, resulting in one of the film’s brightest scenes. It cements Hogg as a director who understands the importance of aesthetics, panoramic shots of the flower fields at Julie’s parents’ house as she cries down to her excellent silver pants (and a dozen other outfits). enviable).
Both films have haunted me since I first saw them, and they leave a ghostly imprint when they randomly pop into my thoughts. As a woman watching Julie struggle to fight for an uncompromising vision of her art against advice from all the white dudes in film school, or living out her romantic relationship with her mom, or even clenching her teeth while listening to Anthony talking about his exes, there’s bound to be a time when you can’t help but see your own reflection in the world that Hogg and Swinton Byrne have so carefully created.