Two women claim to be the mother of a little girl named Janie and their battle takes place in dreams and visions in 1976's The Premonition. An intriguingly modest production, this film at first seems content with a pretty straightforward tale of psychic warfare. However, the story has some interesting subtext about the nature of meaning, of the conflict between symbolic and empirical reality.
We're introduced to a couple weird carnival performers--Jude (Richard Lynch) is established doing some kind of cross between ballet and Tai chi. I'm not sure if he's a mime or a clown. He looks really elegant, anyway, and wears a lot of pastels. His villainy is implicitly tied to gender nonconformity but he still comes off kind of cool. His partner is Andrea (Ellen Barber), an intense woman with psychic abilities. She's trying to steal Janie (Danielle Brisebois) from Sheri (Sharon Farrell) and Miles (Edward Bell). She wages a psychic war, causing Sheri to see visions of ice on her mirror and of Andrea herself.
The film takes its time before stating clearly that Sheri and Miles are Janie's adoptive parents and that Andrea is her birth mother. This is part of a general thematic conflict between the idea that reality is fundamentally conceptual and the idea that things exist outside our minds. The film's Van Helsing character, a "parapsychologist" named Dr. Jeena Kinsly (Chitra Neogy), is firmly in the camp of the former argument and tells Miles that reality is created by an unseen clairvoyant network. Intriguingly, the movie again and again undermines this idea, in no small part because Andrea's psychic connexion to Janie seems clearly based on the fact that she's her birth mother.
Sheri can't simply create herself as mother of Janie, she's unable to surpass the physical reality of Andrea having given birth to Janie. Similarly, when a frustrated Andrea kidnaps one of Janie's dolls instead of Janie herself, she's unable to make that doll into Janie, however much she coos over it and rocks it.
The film plays off the anxieties of a foster parent and also plays on the precariousness of matrimony with its suggestions that Miles sees no real reason why he shouldn't cheat on Sheri. He reflexively mentions the babies they'd lost in childbirth as losses Sheri experienced. The film dwells on the cruelty of reality that continually resists our attempts to organise it into some kind of meaning.
The film's cinematography is kind of nicely plain and cold and Andrea looks really striking in a bright red dress against a dull autumn background. The Premonition is available on Amazon Prime.
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