Saturday 23 July 2011

Images (1972)

A disturbing study of a woman (Susannah York) who may or may not be experiencing psychological collapse, this inhabits that strange demi-world of films like THE SHOUT (1978) which use elements of horror cinema while falling short of being outright horror films themselves.  In IMAGES there are shocks, mysterious figures, ghosts, violence and a twist ending; and yet the film doesn't set out, I don't think, to frighten but to explore.

What Robert Altman likes to explore in his films (although not quite to the extent of someone like Nicolas Roeg) is narrative convention.  In this film Altman shifts the narrative focus from York to one of the characters in her hallucinations (including herself) and back again so that it is impossible to say which of the 'fictions' being depicted represents 'reality', even assuming one of them does.  The sense of psychological isolation in which literally everything, including her own persona, may be a figment of her imagination is troubling.  Her personal torment and isolation is at once mirrored and contrasted with the achingly beautiful but remote landscape of County Wicklow.

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