Invisible Presences: The Elusive Twin and the Empty Screen in Personal Shopper
In psychological and therapeutic literature, the death of a twin is considered to be particularly traumatic and devastating for the surviving sibling, theorised variously as a unique form of sorrow, a ‘halving’, and a loss akin to the death of the self. Although the death of a twin is a recurrent narrative trope in literature and, subsequently, on screen, relatively few films are preoccupied with the aftermath of the twin’s death and the grieving process undergone by the surviving twin. Taking an interdisciplinary perspective, uniting film analysis with psychoanalysis, death studies and sibling psychology, this article explores one such representation of twin bereavement in Olivier Assayas’s 2016 Palme d’Or-winning film Personal Shopper. Assayas’s work frequently explores the complications of death, grief, and memory, and Personal Shopper offers a rare but compelling representation of twin bereavement in its depiction of the apparent haunting of protagonist Maureen (Kristen Stewart) by the spirit of her dead twin brother, Lewis. The article contends that through its use of mirrors, screens and reflections, the film offers a complex and thoughtful representation of grief, not least in its active refusal to offer either its protagonist or the audience a sense of closure or certainty. In doing so, the film seeks to capture not only the complexities and contradictions of grief, but the particular and under-explored experience of twin bereavement and the shattering of self that ensues from this loss.
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