SURVEILLANCE


SURVEILLANCE
(directed by Jennifer Lynch, starring Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond)


Two FBI agents, Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond) and Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman), arrive at a local police station in the Santa Fe desert to investigate a series of murders. They interrogate three Witness|eyewitnesses: Police officer Jack Bennet, the meth-addict Bobby, and Stephanie, an eight-year-old girl, whose family was murdered by two figures dressed in jumpsuits and latex masks.

The ‘’surveillance’’ of the title does not exclusively address the functioning of the government. Although she does criticize the American police with a wry sense of humour, Jennifer is primarily interested in character psychology. This is where the director’s unique aesthetics departs from that of her father.

As the surveillance commences at the police office, we come to realize that the witnesses are lying because they want to outperform their partners. Unlike Frank Booth/Dennis Hopper of ‘’Blue Velvet’’, the killers are not driven by abstract evil. Instead, they seek confirmation in the gaze of the other, whose acceptance guarantees their survival.

In this way Jennifer makes the disturbing statement that  functioning of desire enables surveillance. In our desperate craving for love, we betray our vision to accommodate the invisible gaze – what we perceive as the expectations of others.

The visual style of the film supports this. For example, the placing of the camera on both sides of the two-way mirror in the interrogation room, which suggests that the FBI agents conducting the surveillance are being watched themselves. The way certain lines in the dialog unexpectedly point to the events that unfold later in the film. This creates an omnipresent gaze, beyond linear space and time. Or Jennifer’s trademark slow motion hallucinations: an especially brilliant one shows the murderous couple experiencing agony as they try to make love, seeing past each other, unable to communicate.

 

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