Is what we see Simon’s dream? Inspired by “The Prisoner,” from Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, Chantal Äkerman’s La captive opens and closes on the sea. At the outset it is empty; at the end, it takes a life.
Simon is obsessed with Ariane, who has her own room in his grandmother’s flat. She also shares Simon’s bed there. But what of what she doesn’t share? Driven to “know,” Simon shadows Ariane à la Ferguson in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). One Sunday they stroll together; their shadows on the grass merge, separate, merge, separate. We also are shadowing these characters.
What does Simon wish to know? How much of herself is Ariane giving him? Of what does she think when they make love? What part does her girlfriend Andrée play in Ariane’s life? “Is it a question of bodies?” he asks two other girls, referring to what goes on between two women versus between a woman and a man.
Contributing to the film’s dreaminess are two resemblances that young Simon evokes. One is Jean-Pierre Léaud, some of whose characters also have obsessed after girls. The other is more elusive: Simon’s face, soft and pretty, often resembles that of a girl. We watch Simon get into his double bed on one side and then shift his body to the other side; it is Ariane’s side where he begins—what, we infer, must have been his side before her arrival. Or is it possible that Simon is shadowing himself, plumbing the oceanic depths of his sexual ambiguity?
Simon’s allergic sneezing and recurrent cough bridge a divide between desire and disappointment, life and death. Simon feels that Ariane is forcing herself to stay with him; but he is as much a “captive” as she. Hers; his own; ours.
B(U)Y THE BOOK
MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.