The extremity of the experience can feel almost surreal, and Margaret’s monologue naturally doubles as a statement that she survived and lived to tell this story alone. As the film progresses, she still struggles to exorcise the demons of grief and guilt, while as a mother she feels protective panic over the arrival of David, so many years after moving out and changing her name. But for the duration of the monologue, she is able to occupy a space without interference or demands, and relieve herself, almost in a moment of impromptu therapy. As “Resurrection” progresses in (cathartically) macabre fashion, it draws on this monologue’s wellspring of emotion.
The Projectorist Chronicles a new awards season
The Oscars aren’t until March, but the campaigns have begun. Kyle Buchanan reports on the films, personalities and events along the way.
Another genre film, ‘Pearl’ by Ti West, also uses a marathon monologue to a great but very different effect. Mia Goth plays the title character, a farm girl who, talking to a friend, confesses her violent tendencies – as well as the murders she has committed. The five-plus minute piece (which she delivers as if addressing her husband) opens the film in a new way, for as gruesome as what Pearl says, her pain and desperation are also evident. In West’s brightly colored horror story, this is all played out more overtly for unhinged humor, and Goth (who’s been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her performance) continues her crazy frenzy as Lizzie Borden-meets-Pippi Longstocking.
Genre extremes aside, both monologues are about sharing stories of great violence, and violence is at the heart of Mamie Till-Mobley’s testimony, breaking the relentlessly enforced silence of the Jim Crow South. Chinonye Chukwu’s “Till” touches on the murder of Emmett Till and the heroism of his mother, Mamie (Danielle Deadwyler), before, during and after the trial of his killers, which unfolds as a mockery of justice. The order of the courtroom transcends what we are used to expecting, the dramatic revelations, objections and objections.
The camera holds Deadwyler steadily as Mamie is asked how she identified her son after his body was found. It’s an inherently vicious interrogation that turns the disfiguring brutality of his murder into a pretext for doubting her. Deadwyler and Chukwu change the scene back into something else, a demonstration of determination, righteous anger and love. Mamie holds her own with dignity and composure, in a rebuke to a court that just had a sheriff testify that Emmett Till is alive and hiding somewhere. Her testimony (which includes lines from court transcripts) is filmed in a first profile shot that slowly rotates head-on. Deadwyler controls the screen in such a way that her lines feel unified into a single text that just begs to be heard.
Mamie’s love for Emmett rises above the corruption of the court, and the captured gaze of the camera attests to that. Deadwyler closes her eyes as she explains that she could recognize her son’s body even in that horrible state, and the gesture cuts out a moment within a moment, capturing the intimacy of a mother’s love and the unfathomable pain of the experience. Eventually, the scene begins to go back and forth between Mamie and her questioner, but a climactic response jumps out when she is asked to identify a photo. She responds with matter-of-fact indignation: “This photo is of my son after Mississippi sent him back to Chicago dead.” This is quite literally Mamie speaking truth to power: the naked facts of Emmett’s journey into a segregated state ruled by racial terror and violence. The extended shot helps express how Mamie holds her position and herself in this hostile space. We can’t look away – and we shouldn’t, as she argued through the public display of her son’s body.