In The Souvenir, Joanna Hogg demonstrates Julie’s development from a shy observer to the main character in her own story through the way Julie occupies the room and the frame. This essay is a sneak preview of the new ebook on the film, Tour of Memories: The Creative Process Behind Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir. Get your copy of the book here.
“I have not got that much room,” Julie (Honor Swinton-Byrne) laughingly protests in an early scene in The Souvenir. Anthony (Tom Burke) is sharing her bed for the first time, and he teases her about taking up too much space on the mattress. “You’ve got a foot on that side, and I’m literally on a ledge. I’ve got nowhere left to go,” he counters. It is one of the sweeter moments in The Souvenir and a key point where the couple’s intimacy begins to flourish.
This scene hints at the importance of Julie’s screen space in The Souvenir, whether it is the balance of the space shared between Julie and Anthony as a couple, or the amount of space Julie takes up in the frame in all the other corners of her life: in her apartment, at film school, on her trip to Venice. Joanna Hogg demonstrates Julie’s development from a shy observer to the main character in her own story through the way Julie occupies the room and the frame.
At the beginning of the film, Julie plays a role that she is comfortable in: that of a filmmaker, constantly observing from the side of a room rather than being the centre of the conversation — or the frame. We’re introduced to Julie at a house party in her apartment. The room is filled with cigarette smoke and artistic types chatting about their latest projects — but Julie is not talking to anyone. She is not bored or unhappy; she smiles contentedly as she grips her camera, taking pictures of anyone who catches her eye.
- Patricia Simons, “Women in Frames: The Gaze, the Eye, the Profile in Renaissance Portraiture,” History Workshop Journal 25, no. 1 (1988): 7. Women have been depicted in profile for centuries in European paintings and later photography. Simons theorises this convention to be a shorthand for the male gaze: the woman is the object, being gazed upon without knowing it. In contrast, depicting a woman as looking at us can subvert the male gaze as the female subject is taking agency and looking at us rather than the other way around.