Who is Zhanna really: analysis of the puzzle film “Don’t look back”
Country: France, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium
Genre: thriller, drama
Year of production: 2009
Directed by: Marina de Van
Cast: Sophie Marceau, Monica Bellucci, Andrea de Stefano, Thierry Neuwick, Brigitte Catillon
Don’t Look Back (originally titled Ne te retourne pas) is considered a drama, but it is also a very powerful and atmospheric psychological thriller.
The meaning of the film “Don’t Look Back” is that two different personalities can coexist in one person. The director showed an extreme, pathological bifurcation of human consciousness. But after all, everyone at least once felt “not himself” or “not in himself.” Everyone sometimes asks himself the question: “Who am I, what am I really?”. And that’s why the movie is so captivating.
Let’s try to find an explanation for the key points of this puzzle movie.
Let’s start our analysis with a description of the storyline. The content of the film “Don’t Look Back” introduces us to Zhanna. She is a writer-publicist, happily married, raising two children. The main character is trying to submit another novel for publication, but is refused by the editor. From that moment on, her life changes dramatically.
Monica Bellucci starring Jeanne. Frame from the film.
She sees a strange girl, notices that things in the house are not in their places. While watching a short family video with her husband, Zhanna notices that Theo and the children are making unusual gestures. The situation soon gets worse. Jeanne ceases to recognize children, then her husband’s appearance changes, and he becomes a different person with an unfamiliar face. Paradoxically, Jeanne herself is also changing. She looks in the mirror and does not recognize her own reflection.
Jeanne is desperate. No one, except for her, notices the surrealism that is happening around. The psychiatrist does not find any pathologies in the woman. The doctor is sure that a patient with such a disorder should be observed in a hospital, but Jeanne does not agree to hospitalization. Instead, she asks her husband to take her to her mother, where she intends to spend a few days, in the hope that the condition will stabilize.
Mother is not at home, and Zhanna finds her in her usual place – in the gaming club, at the card table. Zhanna asks for help, but her mother cannot stop the game. In the end, Zhanna persuades her to go home. Here she changes into her favorite pajamas and feels protected. However, strange transformations of the surrounding space continue. Now the face of the mother is changing, and she turns into a woman unknown to Jeanne.
In the house, our heroine finds old photographs in which she sees herself together with two women, one of whom has the face of her mother-1, and the second has her mother-2. The pictures were taken in Italy, that’s where Zhanna goes to figure out what’s going on.
Here she finds a small family cafe, where a woman works, whom Zhanna always remembered as her mother. Moreover, in a cafe she sees a guy who calls this woman mom. The most amazing thing is that she remembers this guy as her husband.
Frame from the film.
One evening, from the window of her hotel room, Jeanne sees a girl who appeared to her in France. She goes outside and follows a strange guest. The girl leads her to the same cafe where the owner’s birthday is celebrated.
Jeanne wanders among the guests, and the situation in the house is familiar to her. Here, another transformation takes place with the heroine: once in one of the rooms, she turns into a girl named Rosa Maria. A woman, whom she remembers as her mother, comes to her and tells her that as a child, the heroine had a car accident. Shortly thereafter, she was taken by a French woman, to whom the girl reached out herself, choosing the name Jeanne for herself. She then lived in France and never returned to Italy. Her real mother remarried, a son was born in the family. However, the foster mother could not truly love the adopted child.
Having found out the truth, the main character in the teenage image of Rosa Maria returns home by train. Here she changes clothes, and turns into Jeanne, which we saw at the very beginning of the film. She enters her apartment, the children joyfully shout “Mom”, and rush to the second incarnation of Jeanne, who knows how to end up in the apartment. No one sees Jeanne herself, except for her second “I”.
At the end of the film “Don’t Look Back”, both Zhannas are sitting side by side and typing a new novel on a laptop with four hands. Titles, final.
The interpretation of the content is quite unambiguous, without hidden subtext. The real heroine of the film “Don’t Look Back” is Rosa Maria. As a child, she got into a car accident and forgot her childhood. The resulting injury provoked a split personality in her. She forgot herself and her family, chose the name Jeanne and reached out to a French woman who, apparently, was a friend of her mother.
Against the background of the injury, the girl developed a split personality – Jeanne and Rosa Maria existed in the same body. At the same time, Jeanne became the dominant personality and lived this life. The personality of Rosa-Mary was in a depressed state, but at the same time, all the images surrounding the heroine were formed by her memories.
The key to the plot lies in the fact that harsh criticism of her novel has become a psychological trauma. An imbalance occurs in her mind, and reality begins to fill her imaginary world. The explanation for what is happening can be given as follows. The real Rosa Mary wakes up and wants answers to her questions. The image of a teenage girl who pursues the heroine in the course of the plot is herself in childhood.
Frame from the film.
The bifurcation of consciousness is also indicated by the fact that when the heroine wakes up one night and tries to catch the girl in the living room, her husband notices tears in her eyes. At the same time, Zhanna herself did not cry at that moment. This is a clear sign of dissociative personality disorder, when several alters coexist in one mind. At the same time, when one person completely owns consciousness, she does not remember what the other was doing. That is why Jeanne does not recognize anything or anyone. When Rosa begins to control consciousness, the memories disappear.
Also, the meaning of the film is partially revealed by the image of Jeanne’s mother. Having adopted a girl, she never loved her. When the heroine confesses to her that she never loved her children, the woman advises her to pretend. That’s what she did all her life. Her real passion was only cards.
The story of Jeanne with Rosa-Maria is also curious. According to the meaning of the film “Don’t Look Back”, the real Jeanne never existed. This is an imaginary friend that Rosa invented for herself, leaving her father’s house, so as not to feel lonely.
Although another option is possible here: Jeanne was the daughter of a French woman and died in a car accident. However, this alignment of events is doubtful. In the house of Jeanne’s mother, there is not a single photograph indicating that she once had a daughter.
The meaning of the ending of the film “Don’t Look Back” comes down to the fact that the consciousness of the main character, although it remained bifurcated, has generally stabilized. Rose-Mary became the dominant personality, but at the same time she did not push Jeanne to the back of the subconscious. Both personalities of a woman have learned to coexist with each other. At the same time, at the end of the film, the heroine, apparently, fully revealed her creative potential. However, she does not even need to invent the plot of a new novel: it is enough just to set out on paper the events that took place in her life.
The main characters of the film are Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci. Frame from the film.
It should also be clarified that Rosa-Mary nevertheless chose the life of Jeanne for herself. She did not stay in Italy, where her real family lives. She returned to France, to her husband and children.
Meaning of “Don’t Look Back”
The paradox is that the hidden meaning in this film is better not to look for. It is better to completely immerse yourself in the world that the director offers. If you do not analyze the events that are shown on the screen, you can fully understand the feelings and thoughts of the main character.
This is a truly spectacular thriller, while the ending fully reveals the meaning of what is happening. If you focus on the details in search of hidden subtext, the picture will be blurred, and the film will lose the charm that Marina de Van was able to create.
If it is meaning that is important, then it can be reduced to finding harmony. Nature does not tolerate emptiness, so Jeanne filled in the missing childhood memories of Rosa-Mary. It was she who filled the consciousness, becoming the main one. However, only having found peace of mind, the main character became a full-fledged personality, and her life ceased to consist of scattered fragments. This integrity is shown very well at the end of the film.