Miriam is back on screen she’s looking around as if searching for something. The tinkling flutters of incorporeal music still tipping back and forth. We are suspended in some kind of time frame ourselves. Captive. Again as in Baby Jane we as spectators are being held within the constructs of the visual narrative as much as the characters themselves. Aldrich uses his shadows to constrict our visual movement. So much of the plot is drenched in the mysterious cloaking of shadow that it obliterates our senses. The shadows formulate the environment to feel obstructive.
Once again the blackest bar of shadow cuts across Miriam’s figure, casting an ominous 2nd Miriam luring behind herself. Throughout Charlotte, the camera/shadows have aggressively dissected the woman’s bodies in various parts. In advertising, there has been criticism aimed at Ads depicting women’s body parts being cut off as if to dehumanize them. I don’t think Aldrich’s intention was to dehumanize these female characters, but rather to show the fracturing of their ambivalent personalities.
The Manifest meaning behind the shadows could be as simple as framing these female characters in mystery, the ultimate question is one of the Latent meanings, in which we might as spectators come to understand the characters’ principal personalities and the underlying motivating forces that drive them.
And I’d like to think that the camera lens didn’t develop a bit of Acrotomophilia, the amputee fetish that sadly some people suffer from. Still, I found that it is something of worthy note to observe how these shadows frame the female body in both films.
Even the plant seems to cut across Miriam’s torso
Miriam knocks on Charlotte’s door. There is a quick jump cut, Charlotte is on the other side of the door. Miriam knocks once more and then walks away. She shuts the lights out and throws us into yet even more darkness than before. She walks over to the silky lace-covered windows. The dog is still barking outside near the graveyard.
A flute flutters the scales in an almost Middle Eastern mixed Phrygian mode, an exotic mysterious motif, as Miriam peers through the curtains yet look back behind her. She turns away and walks back into the room.
We hear a creaking door. It’s the large Armour as the door swings open to show that Miriam’s sequined dress has been slashed. With the use of an inner monologue we hear Miriam say, “My dress, somebody’s slashed my dress.” She stares at it. Again we see her in profile. the little pipe flutterings play again as she walks toward the shredded dress. Slowly ever so slowly build the tension.
The fluttering is now almost childlike. Is this to represent that a regressive childish acting out is responsible for this destructive behavior? Miriam’s head is in complete shadow surrounded by the shiny sequins, dangling like torn fish gills and silk. She begins to handle the ruined fabric, the music still with us. The strings come in strident. Finally, we see Miriam in full face. She looks contained but shocked at the same time. Continue reading “Grande Dame/Guignol Cinema: Robert Aldrich’s Hag Cinema Part V: Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte 1964 “You’re my favorite living mystery” “Have you ever solved me?””