The Great Perhaps: Subjectivity in Eve’s Bayou

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             “Memory is a selection of images, some elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain.” So begins Kasi Lemmons’ transgressive, inventive, and bold depiction of doubt and desire in her debut film Eve’s Bayou. In this opening line we are introduced to a fundamental theme that threads throughout the film: the unreliability of memory, both as a result of selection and imposition. The notion of selection is of particular interest, as it harkens back to the psychoanalytic session in which the analysand filters their memories and chooses words to signify their dreams and experiences to the analyst. The voice that opens the film is of an older Eve, adding a layer of temporal distance and further unreliability. As Keeling suggests, the adult Eve “frames images of her childhood,” occupying a set of images or experiences. Yet “there is always a larger set,” the unseen which this film draws attention to by virtue of exclusion. The notion of imposition is also discussed by Freud in his assertion that sexuality originates from without, staining the brain and memory as the primal scene of sexual trauma. We see this very scene depicted within the first few seconds of the film.

In addition to narration, Lemmons draws attention to the doubt and subjectivity that surrounds the primal scene through camera and sound. This opening scene is framed in a very tight shot, in which it is almost impossible to discern the image. It is also shot in slow motion, further muddling the action of the vision. The use of black and white, which formerly colored the bayou in Eve’s description of its history, further disrupts the temporality of the scene. Ambiguity is underscored in the audio track as well, with indiscernible sounds accompanying the image – perhaps primal, animalistic noises, perhaps a gasp or moan? The answer lies in the perhaps.