Shattered Image

(aka Jessie, Raúl Ruiz, USA, 1998)


Shattered Image – underrated by those who do not know or appreciate Raúl Ruiz's source in trashy telemovie erotic thrillers of the kind he imbibed while in America – offers a kind of pure fiction.

It sets in place an undecidable narrative dispositif in which one story moves along until it jumps, with a jolt, into its 'double'. Anne Parillaud stars in both, as a repressed, troubled newly-wed in one, and a steely, crack killer in the other.

But the status of these stories, and the relationship between them, remains uncertain, entirely ambiguous: we never know if it is Jessie 1 who is dreaming the exploits of Jessie 2, or vice versa.

So there is no ground in this story, no stable reference point of narration. And there is also no discernible time frame – are these story events happening one after the other, or at exactly the same time? What happens to the hallowed narrative convention – so subterranean and yet so crucial to our viewing comfort – of night following day and day following night in a regular way?

We learn intuitively, instead, to float with this purest of fictions, all the way to the magnificent ending in which the two heroines face one another across the absent space of a bathroom's looking glass.

Curious aside: it seems that Ruiz has several times been approached to helm odd, pre-scripted, English-language thrillers that somehow resonate with the motifs and manner of his own surreal universe. Another project which he didn't end up making – which, like this one, had his friend Barbet Schroeder involved as a producer – is a trash masterpiece: the American-Canadian Never Talk to Strangers (1995). Rather than doubling like Shattered Image, it ultimately folds in on itself with the revelation that Rebecca De Mornay has all along been "stalking herself"!

MORE Ruiz: Dark at Noon, That Day, Three Lives and Only One Death, Time Regained, Three Crowns of the Sailor, The Tango of the Widower and Its Distorting Mirror

© Adrian Martin March 2004

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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