Woody Allen's 1988 film Another Woman is a mature and perceptive study into human relations and emotions, delivered to the screen via a number of insightful performances from Allen's stellar cast. For those exclusively interested in Allen's comedic films, it should be noted that Another Woman is a near-barren territory when it comes to laughs, but instead delivers a totally convincing, and concise, emotional punch over its 77-minute duration. Once again, Allen's film clearly reflects his love of the films of Ingmar Bergman, and Another Woman's narrative has been likened to that of Bergman's Wild Strawberries.
As soon as Eric Satie's haunting music begins over the film's opening credits, it is clear that we're not in line for a barrel of laughs here. Another Woman charts the complex emotional development of recently-turned-50 philosophy teacher and budding writer Marian Post (brilliantly played by Gena Rowlands) as she attempts to come to terms with current and past marriages, and emotionally-charged experiences from her past. As she begins to doubt her current marriage to Ken (Ian Holm delivering a typically stalwart performance), she, by chance, happens to overhear (through an open ventilation duct in the apartment she has rented specifically for her writing) the impassioned outpourings of pregnant Hope (Mia Farrow, playing a character whose name is never spoken during the film), which are being delivered to her psychiatrist. Marian eventually realises that Hope's concerns are a mirror image of her own, even down to the emotional challenges associated with bringing new life into the world.
In parallel with Marian's eavesdropping antics, she also receives shocks to her otherwise apparently stable world as she learns from her sister-in-law that her (admittedly, emotionally distant) brother Paul 'hates her', and, in a brilliant sequence, discovers that one of her past best friends, and now actress, Clare (superbly played by Sandy Dennis) split from her as a result of Clare's view that Marian tried to poach a previous boyfriend from her. Marian's growing feelings of guilt are also heightened as she recalls her own infatuation with Gene Hackman's Larry, at the same time that she was pursuing her relationship with Ken. In a similar vein, Allen also includes a powerful scene where Marian's restaurant meal is interrupted by a former pupil, who praises her erstwhile teacher for being such a big influence on her life and for once delivering a memorable talk on 'ethics and moral responsibility'. As Marian becomes increasingly anxious, Allen introduces a number of dream sequences featuring her relatives and close friends which serve to accentuate her predicament.
At the film's conclusion, Marian, faced with the stark reality of her emotional detachment and deception, recognises that she must change her life and attempt to achieve some level of redemption. She starts this process by indicating a desire to re-establish closer relationships with her brother and stepdaughter.
Allen's film provides a stunning portrayal of his familiar obsessions of guilt, love, deception, jealousy, revenge, death and repressed emotion. Given the familiar territory, it is not surprising that Another Woman has resonance with a number of other Allen films. In particular, it is reminiscent in many places of one of his masterpieces, the later, and superior, Crimes and Misdemeanours, with the Marian role corresponding to that of Judah in the later film.
Typically, Allen has also put together an appropriately mood-inflected soundtrack for the film, featuring Bach, Mahler, Cole Porter, Erroll Garner and Dave Brubeck.
Another Woman is a film which, on the face of it, might appear rather hard going, but I found it totally absorbing and one of Allen's most convincing depictions of serious themes.