Portrait Of Jennie


Portrait of Jennie is a mystery centering on a disillusioned artist who finds his muse in a elusive young girl he meets by chance in a park, Jennie. While some view the film as a romance (that is certainly a major aspect of it), the story really runs deeper and investigates the painful creative process. Our first introduction to the story is not with words of poetry or love lost, but Eben saying, "There is a type of suffering for the artist which is worse than anything the winter or poverty can do. It is more like a winter of the mind...My courage had all run out."

A serendipitous day sparks Eben's dormant potential and starts him painting again. However, he is soon in crisis as his ability to draw and paint is only evoked by visits from Jennie. He hunts for her through the city and parks, but her appearances are rare and haphazard. Will he ever be able to stand alone on his talents? Can he reach his artistic pinnacle without losing himself to Jennie's ghost?
Jennie, played by Jennifer Jones (perhaps one of her best films), first appears to us as a breathless young girl full of life and whimsy. We are as charmed by her as Eden; charmed enough to look past the foreboding song she sings...In her second visit she seems years older and with each progressive meeting, Eben is stunned by Jennie's transformation. While the plot is unbelievable, her graceful aging is quite authentic due to Jennifer's delicate acting. Adding to her perplexing nature are the somewhat magical backdrops; some scenes evoke paintings and project an air of other-worldliness.
Even as Eben begins to grasp Jennie's anomalous nature, his reluctance to accept it is obvious. He ignores clues along the way that might disillusion him and even his portrait of the lady is nearly left unfinished. On a subconscious level he worries that when he completes the portrait his visits from his muse will be at an end. Everything has an expiration date though and Eben can not hide from the truth forever. Eventually he begins to not just seek Jennie, but the secrets of her life that she has kept from him. The answers are not what he desires, but only through absolute knowledge can he achieve creative enlightenment.
I won't write more as I don't want to give away more of Jennie's story and major plot details. Suffice to say, while the viewer understands what has occurred in the end of the film, there are still unanswered questions...
Portrait of Jennie, screencaps by me

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