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/ News / Festival Daily
Personal Shopper: Confronting the ghost of our own self

HIGHLIGHT / MEET THE AUDIENCE / EVENT | 28/04/2017

Olivier Assayas brought his latest work, Personal Shopper, winner of the Cannes Film Festival Best Director Award, to this year’s HKIFF. Mystery and the supernatural converge in this multilayered drama, galvanized by Kristen Stewart playing a young woman trying to communicate with her dead twin brother. Assayas revealed the background behind this complicated story in his Master Class, held on 21 April at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

 

Assayas explained that he was inspired by a character torn between who she was and who she wanted to be. Personal shopping was how she made a living, but it gave her no satisfaction; rather, she was on a more profound spiritual quest. "I was interested in the character's ambivalence. As much as she despised fashion, something attracted her," the director said. "Fashion might reveal some answers as she was looking for her new identity. She questioned every dimension—including her femininity, desire and fantasy—as she examined the possibility of transforming herself."

 

Personal Shopper and Clouds of Sils Maria (his previous film) have one thing in common: Kristen Stewart played an assistant to a celebrity. "Kristen inspires me because she herself is part of the modern celebrity internet culture," he explained. "In both films, I needed to throw away the burden of celebrity and allow the audience to see the real Kristen."


Director Olivier Assayas and Host

Stewart was in a role that needed interaction less with people than with smart phones and computers. "The theme is very much about loneliness," the director said. "The way we use our smart phones to connect with family and friends transforms human identity and redefine loneliness."

 

While touching on the subject, the film is not a conventional ghost story. "I didn’t present ghosts in a traditional way,” Assayas said. “My reference point was the spiritual photography in the late 19th century, when people genuinely believed they were seeing ghosts and communicating with the spirits.”  

 

The ghost of her brother appeared once. If she’d turned around, she would’ve seen him. “She had lost faith, losing the opportunity of connecting with something she really longed for,” Assayas explained. “Ultimately she gets a second chance. Even though she still questions herself, she already understands that she would find the answer within herself."


Director Olivier Assayas and Host


The director admitted that the film was very much defined by collaborating with Stewart, who was artistically involved as more than a mere actress. Her intuition was essential, shaping how the audience would interact with the film. The last line Assayas wrote was: "Is it me?" The ghost says "yes."  Stewart came up with "Is it just me?" which is precisely how the character felt at that moment.

 

He considers that what we call ghosts, or connecting with the supernatural, is ultimately a way of connecting with our own subconscious. “Going through moments of fear and anxiety, when you're on the border of connecting with something else, you’re actually having a dialogue with yourself,” Assayas added. “The way to heal, to survive and find peace, is by accepting those things happening inside of you.” 

 

Watch the Master Class below:

 


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Highlights
THE SISTERS BROTHERS’ director Jacques Audiard took the limelight at the French Night
20/03/2019
Lee Chang-dong Master Class: a Voyage of Time in PEPPERMINT CANDY
20/03/2019
Centenary of Korean Cinema Illuminates HKIFF!
19/03/2019
影評人劉偉霖推介
19/03/2019
World Premiere of BODIES AT REST powers up HKIFF43!
18/03/2019
HKIFF43 Kicks Off Tonight!
18/03/2019

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