Monday, May 4, 2015

Eve’s Bayou and the Beauty of an Ambiguous Ending

“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 Louisiana 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. 

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 Hollywood 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

12 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Just been on in London as part of a black film festival. Sorry to say but we found it trite, silly and overacted. Faux melancholia slathered on till it became unbearable. It would have been better played for laughs, like 'The Help.'

    I don't know, but I'm guessing from the lack of reviews outside the US, this one never got a run internationally? If so, it's not surprising.

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    1. Read wikipedia sir-maybe you don't read international news.

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    2. eve's bayou is trite, but the help isn't? lol

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    3. Ben you obviously have no respect or experience for black nor southern culture in the South within the United States.....so if trite is what you see it is the limitation of your own experience and mind. For the setting and time, and keeping in mind this is a fictional piece very artifully expressed, the film accomplished very much what it set out to do. I'm still intrigued by this drama. Faux Melancolia is a great description of most of the European and American Classics..... and life. Hmmmmm, imagine that!

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    4. If you cannot respect the conventions from which this film draws you cannot critique it. Period. This criticism is invalid, not because I disagree with it, but because you clearly have not done your Black, southern, Black feminist, Black woman creative research. It is not to be measured against what you're used to.

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  3. missed a spot some elusive others imprinted ;)

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  4. I think its kind of clear what actually happens at the end. The problem is that there's a missing piece to this because there is a slightly different version of the film that is extremely hard to come across.

    In this version of the film, we are also introduced to either the great uncle or grandfather (I forget which one) of Eve after the party before getting dressed for bed. He has some sort of mental illness and is bound to a wheel chair.

    In the more popular version, he can be vaguely seen in the background during Cicely's recount of "The kiss". If you look closely and direct your attention away from the master shot of Cicely, you will notice a blurry figure who sits still and watches the entire ordeal transpiring between Cicely and her father.

    In the final flashback of the incident when Eve asks for her sister's hands, the truth of the matter is revealed. Both father and daughter seem to be well aware of what they are doing. They seem to share a mutual romantic interest in one another and kiss consensually and intently.

    It is not until the figure in the backggound, disturbed by what he has just witnessed, knocks over a glass of water - perhaps out of shock or in effort to get someone's attention - that the two characters who are so into their characters realize or remember that he is there. They are both equally as shocked and Luis, seemingly in an effort to save face looks back towards Cicely and slaps her as though to blame it on her.

    I believe they were involved in a consensual incestuous relationship that has occurred for some time. I think this also can be attributed to the blood found on her clothing. I never was convinced it was from her cycle.

    So that's my lil take one it 😁

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  5. I like your take on it! I've never see the version or noticed the granfather/uncle....wow that could change my impression. I'll have to look for it!!!

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  6. I like your take on it! I've never see the version or noticed the granfather/uncle....wow that could change my impression. I'll have to look for it!!!

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  7. Uncle Tommy was the character. He was cut because a funder didn't want him in there.

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