The Hauntings of Tilda Swinton and Joanna Hogg

Swinton: There’s also something about the setup, the disruption of the relationship between mother and daughter. The daughter is in control, and one assumes is paying for the hotel, did all the booking, made all the arrangements. She is the orchestrator of all of this. And there’s a tension for grown-up children both taking that responsibility on and having an ambivalent relationship with it, occasionally wanting to be a child again and being maybe frustrated or even frightened when the parents become incapable and the child becomes the only grown-up in the room. That whole disruption is possible in the hotel because all the lines of authority are broken or not established in the way that they would be if they were in Rosalind’s house. 

Hogg: When I went with my mother to these hotels, my mother would also insist on paying. So, then, as a daughter I felt an obligation that everything be perfect and wonderful for her. It’s that impetus that Julie has for her mother to always be happy, intensified by the fact that I wasn’t paying. I was very much in the position of child from the beginning. I’m so fascinated by these kinds of dynamics. 

I wanted to ask Tilda about the process of playing dual characters within the same family in The Eternal Daughter. How did this compare to the process or psychology of playing multiple roles in Orlando (1992) and in Suspiria (2018)? Is there a different intensity or extra dimensionality in taking on and dialoguing as multiple characters in a film?

Swinton: I find it completely, naturally fascinating. I’m doing a quick checklist in my mind. In a way, [these different characters] always end up being one portrait. For example, in Okja (2017), the identical twins were developed in relationship to one another. One goes one way, and the other goes another. But they are still an entity, if you like. In Hail Caesar! (2016), they are identical twins. So, they are also one character. In Suspiria, it was something that Luca [Guadagnino] and I were interested in—in fact, I play three characters in that film. They are actually developed in relation to one another. So again, it’s one portrait in a funny way. They are sort of like superego, ego, and id. [The Eternal Daughter], of course, it’s the highest, highest value of that because—no spoilers—we realize in the end why it’s important for the same person to play both [characters]. In this case, it’s absolutely essential that the mother and daughter are played by the same person. And the other major difference between this particular [film] and the other [films] that I mentioned before is that we wanted to work with minimal masks. We wanted both portraits to be as natural…and authentic as they possibly could be, given that I was still presenting as a very old woman who was born in a different era and uses a [different] kind of language and moves in a particular way. So, in many ways, I don’t see this as multiple roles. I see this as a portrait and a projection. I know that sounds like a spoiler, but it kind of is. It could even be a double projection, if you like.

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