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The Souvenir Part II is a testament to the power of filmmaking

Joanna Hogg’s sequel to her semi-autobiographical film uses the medium to explore grief and creativity in a daringly raw and personal way

By Jacob Collett, Third Year, Psychology

Joanna Hogg’s sequel to her semi-autobiographical film The Souvenir uses the medium of film to explore grief and creativity in a daringly raw and personal way, adding to a body of work which carves her out as one of the most bold and precise filmmakers working today.

Coming off the back of several television and music video credits in the 90s, Joanna Hogg’s breakthrough feature debut Unrelated in 2007 stood her out as a promising new voice in the lesser-documented domain of British middle-class social realism.

Capturing what has been fittingly described as ‘bourgeois ennui’, each film of Hogg’s impressive catalogue has built on the last, ultimately culminating in the making of The Souvenir - her semi-autobiographical account of her time at film school in the 80s.

Courtesy of IMDB 

The Souvenir chronicles the relationship between Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), a film school student living in Knightsbridge, and Anthony (Tom Burke), a mysterious older man who works at the Foreign Office.

Despite his initial charm and intrigue, it transpires that Anthony is a heroin addict who manipulates and steals from Julie to fund his habit and after the breakdown of their relationship the film ends as he is found dead from an overdose.

Part II opens with Julie recovering from the news of Anthony’s death and follows her as she tries to process her loss by making a film about their relationship for her final project. In navigating her grief through her art, Julie tries to retrace Anthony’s final moments before he passed and create what fellow film school friend Patrick (Richard Ayoade) describes as a ‘memorial’ for him.

Courtesy of IMDB 

Hogg beautifully captures the intricacies of making a film, from the difficulties of securing funding to managing the various egos on set while trying to stay faithful to one’s vision and tell a highly personal story.

In what is quite possibly her most meta piece of work, she uses Julie’s character to explore the struggle of recreating your own memories through film, but also perhaps more poignantly the pain of trying to creatively funnel the experience of grief.

Memories of her past are crystallised through the gorgeously rich cinematography that flickers between sharp 35mm colour and grainy black and white for flashbacks, attesting to the clarity and precision with which Hogg tells stories.

Courtesy of IMDB 

The score is punctuated with thumping 80s bangers from the likes of Wire, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

It’s impossible to go without mentioning Richard Ayoade’s character Patrick who almost steals the show as the chain-smoking diva director - “You are forcing me to have a tantrum” - who somewhat acts as a mentor for Julie. Ayoade hilariously leans into the character to the point that you almost get the sense that he is channelling an alter-ego.

In the final act when Julie showcases her finished film, she introduces it by saying it’s a gift to friends not present, but in the case of Joanna Hogg, this is a gift to filmmakers and film-lovers alike.

Featured Image : IMDB

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