The film Personal Shopper was released in 2016 and received a prize for directing at Cannes. Its director is the famous French intellectual and postmodernist Olivier Assayas. Starring Kristen Stewart. The author of the film followed one single rule: in order to accurately, fully and deeply describe today’s disintegration of the world and personality, he will be unpredictable and break all the rules, mix all genres.
What is Personal Shopper about?
In the center of the plot is a classic character of our time, a young man of Western society, who does not have any specific occupation, laboring in precarious employment. Rather, this is the girl Maureen, whose role is played by Kristen Stewart. Until recently, such people, living with various hobbies and jobs in one or another country of the world, were called “man of the world”. And there was something proud in this, some kind of freedom to choose – a job, a country, a model of life.
But before us is a rather miserable and lost creature. Maureen is the personal shopper for capricious star Kira. Kira is either a model or a business woman – it’s not entirely clear. But she is extremely headstrong and arrogant. Maureen’s task, as an assistant, is to buy clothes for Kira in boutiques. Maureen hates her job. She lives in Paris, but for her this is some kind of “rag hard labor”, although she is paid relatively well – very relatively. In the apartment of her employer, she meets a certain gentleman, Kira’s former lover. Maureen learns that the gentleman is going to talk to Kira, who has dumped him and is now avoiding him.
Another tragedy in Maureen’s life is the recent death of her twin brother. They have one disease for two of the same heart disease. Before their death, the twins agreed that the one who leaves the world first will send a sign from the other world to the rest. Kristin returns to their common house to pick up this signal.
Maureen and the deceased Lewis considered themselves mediums. This topic, important to Maureen, is unexpectedly supported by a strange TV show that tells about an artist who painted under the influence of communication with spirits. Maureen was thrilled by this transmission. It is felt that for her, in this meaningless life, in which she herself is completely lost and blurred, it is her mediumistic abilities that are a chance to feel like an interesting, unusual and living being.
Maureen is eagerly waiting for a sign, and indeed, something strange is happening at night. She first senses a mysterious entity, then sees a ghost spewing ectoplasm. Frightened, Maureen flees. Immediately after that, SMS from an unknown person begins to arrive on her phone, who manipulates the girl – he persuades her to try on someone else’s role. And literally – to try on Kira’s things, which is strictly prohibited. But Maureen plays the game. One day, she returns to Kira’s apartment with two bags of Cartier jewelry (Kira ordered them, as usual) and finds her owner dead.
Maureen runs away in fear. Returning home, she is surprised to find packages from Cartier. It is not clear whether they were thrown to her, or she herself carried them away in unconsciousness. She is again bombarded with SMS by a stranger whom she mistakes for a ghost.
Maureen runs away from all troubles to her boyfriend in Oman and there, in a remote hut, she finds not him, but a strange phenomenon – a glass floating in the air. She again asks the question: “Lewis, is that you?”. The glass breaks.
The meaning of the movie “Personal Shopper”
This is a movie about a broken world and a broken man. Maureen herself resembles a ghost – in the social sense of the word. Such is the sad thing to consider the precariat in a world in crisis – people who live by odd jobs without any social protection, without confidence in the future. Eternal anxiety. Eternal fear for the future… No wonder, because death overtakes a very young man, Maureen’s brother. Who in such a world can be calm and not be afraid for himself?
Of course, you should not reduce the whole point of this movie to social problems. Otherwise, we would not be shown a ghost. And we are shown it at the beginning in the most classic way – as is customary in horror, and it’s scary. And then the director cleverly plays with the presence of an unseen ghost by opening the elevator doors and the lobby, even though we don’t see people coming in or out.
We don’t even know if it’s the ghost that was in the house or if it really is Maureen’s brother. Rather, the second. Because at the hotel, the police are grabbing a gentleman who, apparently, was Kira’s killer.
The meaning of the ending
At the end, when the glass that was hanging in the air breaks, Mrin says, “Lewis, is that you? Or is it me?” That is, she begins to suspect that all otherworldly phenomena are her extrasensory abilities. Maybe Lewis wasn’t giving her any sign. Maureen didn’t see the strange door scene with us.
The director is kind of telling us that Maureen will never settle for anything. Eternal uncertainty, like flour, will remain her lot. In this world, it cannot even rely on the certainty of the other world. She is not even left with faith in the possibility of communicating with the soul of her dead brother. This is more than a pessimistic film that accurately describes the self-awareness of a modern European who has lost all points of support in the world and in himself.