22.214.171.124 Water and Bathing.
** How does Jackson use water in the film?
Water is one of those wonderful, versatile and potent symbols much loved by writers
and, especially, by filmmakers. Jackson uses water in the following ways: * Pastorally,
romantically. "The Princess of Ilam" is first glimpsed over an idyllic stream,
through a fountain. Classic Romantic stuff (see section 6). 'It' was thrown into the dark,
swirling waters by the Ilam shrine. There were fountains and pools in the girls' vision of
the Fourth World. Even Port Levy was blue and tranquil in the distance. * Playfully.
Jumping off the dock at Port Levy and playing by the seaside were both there just for fun
... weren't they? * Spiritually, mystically. The Ilam bathtub scenes were mostly spiritual
and religious in tone. * Domestically, oppressively. We see dishes being washed several
times, including the day of the murder. We see clothes being washed in several key scenes.
None of these are happy, jolly scenes--water is a shackle, an instrument of oppression in
these scenes. When Pauline bathes at home she is seeking privacy and peace, but she
doesn't find any. * Dramatically. 'It' is swept over a small waterfall in the night...
he'll be back. Pauline bikes through a terrible downpour to get to Ilam, to hear about
'divorce' (see 7.4.3). Her hair is soaked, hanging down over her face, just the way it was
when we found out how much she "loathed Mother." And then there is all that mud
in the Prologue and the "Humming Chorus" walk.
** Why did Jackson show the two girls bathing
Having Pauline and Juliet bathe together was scripted by real events. Pauline
Parker made frequent reference in her diaries to bathing with Juliet, so Walsh and Jackson
were forced to deal with this issue. They chose to take Pauline's cue and turn it into
some of the most interesting and significant scenes in the film.
** What was the dramatic progression in the Ilam
The first bathtub scene was in natural light. We see that all is pristine, white,
simple--porcelain, tile, paint. Pauline is on the 'sinister' side, Juliet facing on the
right. There is no motion. The voiceover is "The Ones That I Worship". There is
a close-up of Pauline's brown eyes, and of Juliet's blue-grey eyes. The second scene is by
flickering candle light, and tones are orange and red. The sound is 'live' and immediate
and harsh, the way sound is when it reflects from water. Pauline has just withdrawn from
school and enrolled at Digby's. She is upset: "I think I'm going crazy." Juliet
is in command and comfortable and still on the right side. "No you're not, Gina. It's
everyone else who's bonkers!" The escape to Hollywood is hatched. With Henry Hulme,
we hear the girls taking "photographs." The third bathtub scene is by moonlight,
blue and cold through the windows. The girls look like corpses. Only their heads are
visible above the still, milky water. It is almost silent, but the sound is again live and
harsh; we hear a tap dripping slowly, loudly. This time, Juliet is in tears and Pauline is
dark, dangerous and bitter. "We don't want to go to too much trouble." All
Juliet can muster is a weak and small "yes."
** So what are the spiritual/mystic references?
The first Ilam bath scene is a straightforward reference to Christian baptism and
rebirth and communion. Juliet had just returned from the sanatorium. The occasion was
joyful but solemn, a beginning, when all things were new and untainted and everything was
still possible. It was a reaffirmation, a statement of commitment, one to the other. The
second scene took place under troubled circumstances, a time when faith was being
challenged and the future looked uncertain. The girls responded by grasping a little
desperately at the pagan trappings of older, more primitive sects of the Church, and at
empty mysticism because their faith wasn't working for them. The scene is reminiscent of
the scene at the Ilam shrine. It's not that the girls were making a pact with any deity or
devil, though they may have wanted to--we see that there just weren't any around to listen
to their prayers. They were alone. The final bathtub scene is even more primitive--the
more desperate their straits, the farther back the girls must grasp in human spirituality
for help. It is pre-Christian, a reference to Greco-Roman myths of dark, Stygian waters
and death, a reference to stories and beliefs even older than that, where water is linked
with life, and punishment and death. Deals might be made in such waters but there is often
treachery, when dealing with old, minor gods and there is always a terrible price to pay.