Disturbed Motherhood, the Sexual Sister, the Hovering Brother and Retrospective Introspection in Fleur Darkin’s & Jemima Levick’s ‘The Lover’

The older brother Pierre (Francesco Ferrari) is a violently related entity hovering over and blaspheming the relationship between the girl (Amy Hollinshead) and her lover (Yosuke Kusano). At every occasion Pierre tries to overshadow her body, dismiss her into oblivion and abandon, the way he physically exiles his younger brother successfully, Paulo (Kieran Brown), but she resists him. Her empowerment and agency lie in her sexuality, but even more so in her continuous survival. The girl is a survivor of this abusive and cruel family that throttles her body with an intense lack of space and physical intrusion. The haunting chemistry between Pierre and the girl is life-threatening, bestial and a wrestling for life. The girl lives in a family of décadents, Pierre’s persona and body being a bottomless abyss that the viewer is absorbed and terrified by as he is a struggling puppet of his own mental illness and demons that dominate his actions.

Whilst the girl uses her body to express her sexuality, the younger brother is crouching, falling apart in the shadows, deranged by the older one, pushed into a suffocating reclusion. The brothers mould the girl’s sexuality as much as the lover does. She cannot dissolve like her younger brother and she must not degenerate like her older one, she must overcome them both. Pierre is the volatile obstacle orbitting her body, her sexuality and her identity with a sense of ownership and a platonic coveting, sniffing her, imposing his dominance upon her, reclaiming his sister as if in a territorial fight. The girl is violent in response, she counteracts him, on the same instinctual level, as siblings they know each other inside-out. As she discovers the beauty of her carnality Pierre blemishes it with shame, guilt and blame, putting a price on her body as if it belonged to him, patronising what is hers.

Pierre is the one pushing his family over the edge and the mother has failed them all, they are all solitary wanderers, the girl being the only one with a sense of self and vocation whilst the others are lost and drowning in their desolate companionship. Pierre and the girl’s older self (Susan Vidler) are voyeurs, he is destruction, she is creation, he is oppressive, she is liberating, he is terror, she the guardian. The lover is where the brothers are: in the past whilst she made it into the future. The girl’s older self gazes back at an adolescent that she could never let go, a story that she could never stop writing about, a voice with which she never stopped being in a dialogue.

Despite the fact that she tried everything in her power to not end up like her family members, the mother left her dismal traces in the girl laying the foundation for her own eventual struggling motherhood that is scarred by terrorising memories. The girl’s older self and the mother are embodied by the same woman and yet despite her miseries the girl became a crisis-outliving creator. The brothers hold on to her because she embodies life, an existence outside of the family that is so full of pain and loss and shame, an energy devoid of mental illness that overshadows them all. As the presumably most dependent character of them all, the girl turns out to be the freest, as her family is stuck in a vicious and self-destructive cycle and her lover is at his father’s financial mercy and thus is forced into a societally acceptable marriage.

The girl’s body and her engaging counterparts have the same legerity whilst she is making love and being ravaged. They are interdependent to her. One filters the other and one transforms the other, her body being the agent of that process. The saner the girl becomes, the deeper her brothers and mother drift off into an exitless madness. Knowing that she is loveworthy, that she herself has access to an emotion like love, she has to let go and extract herself from the ruins that she gained life from and thus she will always cherish the moments of this unfinished story that she continuously revisits throughout her entire life.

In the end it is a story of how Duras replaced hate with love, violence with tenderness, captivity with freedom, death with life, reality with autobiographical fiction.




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