Till Human Voices Wake Us

TILL HUMAN VOICES WAKE US. 2002

Director: Michael Petroni

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



In this hybrid weird tale & love story, a psychologist (Guy Pearce) with a specialty in repressed memory meets a beautiful amnesiac (Helena Bonham Carter) who turns out the be the ghost (if real) or the memory projection (if not real) of a tragically lost love.

The casting makes it feel too much the melodramatic romance while the ghost story remains tepid. It could've been a highly atmospheric Henry James style psychological ghost story if it hadn't leaned so much on the lost love aspect & the sentimental flashbacks to innocent youth that came dangerously close to Norman Rockwell but without a sense of humor. Or it could've been a so-so "love ghost story" in the manner of Robert Nathan if it hadn't been such an unlikely & unconvicing, though simpleminded, clinical example of repressed memory.

By aiming for a resolution that resembles an overly pat psychiatric case study instead of a story climax, it somewhat shoots itself in the foot. Its subtext is a pretence of applicability to clinical analysis, as though written by an actual psychoanalyst finding a new method of lecturing the class. But the class knows what the professor does not: he is not so much describing a credible case study as he is constructing a personal fairy tale of the ideal woman as sexually willing blank slate void of personal existance or bothersome self-will.

So while pretending to provide the psychotherapist with a self-healing epiphany for his own repressed memories & emotions, all that we really see is a kind of masturbation fantasy from an ego-crippled point of view character. This makes the film actually more interesting (if only barely) for what its author didn't intend to reveal, than for the conscious & fascile surface story.

The story is full of eroticized angst, misery, hysteria, self-absorption, with good cinematography for the small town prettiness, but very short on suspense. It is largely a good if occasionally frustrating film, but never actually has a climax or a surprise in it, since it's all telegraphed from the beginning & never wavers from the excessively obvious.
copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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