“Memory is a selection of images. Some printed indelibly upon the brain. Each image is like a thread. Each thread woven together to make a tapestry of intricate texture and a tapestry tells a story and the story is our past” (Eve, Eve’s Bayou)
Eve’s Bayou is a southern Gothic narrative set in a fictional 1960's
bayou town that also shares the
name of the film’s protagonist, ten year old Eve Batiste. Over the course of a
summer the film explores the spirituality, secrets and memories of the Batiste
family. Director and writer Kasi Lemmons says, “I wanted to take this very
human drama and set it against the magical folklore of Louisiana ”. The crux of the
film’s conflict rests in the various memories or visions concerning a kiss
shared between Cisely Batiste (Eve’s older sister) and Dr. Louis Batiste (the
family patriarch). Internal focalization is used to relay the various versions
of the kiss. First the viewer is introduced to Cisely’s perspective, which is
rooted in anger, confusion and pain. Eve, who is already disillusioned by her
father’s infidelity, is extremely disturbed by her sister’s version of the “the
kiss”; so much so that she makes a vow to murder her father. Louisiana
|Eve and her Aunt Mozelle|
Louis is eventually murdered by the husband of his long time mistress Matty Meraux. However questions arise within the narrative as to what really caused the murder. Was it the voodoo spell that Eve ordered from the local witch that killed Dr. Batiste? Maybe it was it was the seeds of jealousy that Eve planted in the killer’s mind during a chance encounter? The fact that the narrative never clarifies exactly what happened adds even more to the magical realist tone of the film.
|Matty Meraux (Louis Batiste's Mistress) and Lenny Meraux (Matty's husband and Louis's murderer)|
In the aftermath Dr. Batiste’s death, the audience is presented with another version of “the kiss” that served as the catalyst for the dark turn of events in the film. Dr. Batiste’s version (relayed through a letter) is free of any wrong doing on his part. He asserts that the kiss between himself and Cisely was a misunderstanding rooted in a young girl’s confusion. He only expresses regret for slapping Cisely in its confusing aftermath. Eve disturbed by the differing versions of “the kiss” demands Cisely’s hands for “counseling” which has been presented earlier in the film as an inherited magical gift for receiving visions. The vision that Eve receives does nothing to clear up the confusion surrounding what happened between her sister and father during “the kiss”. It’s clear that Cisely was hurt by her father but the connotation of “the kiss” (sexual, innocent, misunderstood) is left unexplained by Eve’s vision. The audience is left to decide the truth of the kiss with no real definitive answer being offered by the narrative itself.
Director and writer Kasi Lemmons explains during the DVD commentary that she, “always felt that there was something between the two [but] that even they [Cisely and Louis Batiste] are not exactly clear on what happened but that a line had been crossed [between father and daughter]”.
At the film’s conclusion it not clear what really transpired between father and daughter or whether or not Louis Batiste’s death was truly warranted. The decision to end the film in an ambiguous manner was a brave artistic choice on the part of Lemmons as a writer and director. Often mainstream films demand
endings; endings that are tied up in cute packages and that give the audience
the answers to the questions that the narrative has presented. The end of Eve’s Bayou, though it does not provide
the stereotypical version of Hollywood
closure, is perfectly suited for the film that precedes it. The audience, like
the characters themselves, is left in a state of dubiety as to what really
happened between Cisely and her father. Lemmons concludes during the DVD
commentary, “Reality to one person is not necessarily reality to the audience”. Lemmons narrative exploration of the memories
and visions of the Batiste family is well served by an ending that is authentic
to the characters themselves and through its ambiguity proves to be more
powerful than a typical Hollywood movie conclusion.
|Cisely and Eve Batiste|