Passion of Mind

As an emotional drama, Passion of Mind represents a point of departure for its French director, Alan Berliner, and its star, Demi Moore, who's been absent from the screen for a number of years. In his first English-speaking movie, a follow-up to his stunning debut Ma vie en rose, Berliner explores the duality of love as experienced by a young mother unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

This small-scale, chamber piece, which boasts good acting from Moore, Stellan Skarsgard and William Fichtner (as her two lovers), has a strong built-in appeal for women but should experience harder times in going beyond the specialized arthouse circuit due to Ron Bass and David Field's narrowly-scoped, undernourished script.

Even by standards of A-scripter Ron Bass, who has written a number of narratives about women in distress (Dangerous Minds, Waiting to Exhale, When a Man Loves a Woman), Passion of Mind is a minor work. This psychological drama, which concerns the duality of human nature and the need to realize our goals, even it can only happen in dreams, occasionally rises to a lyrical level through its romantic touches. But harsher critics will dismiss this lightweight tale as a woman's wet dream, expressed in the desire of having two lovers at the same time, each fulfilling different needs.

Demi Moore plays Marie, a gently sophisticated, mild-mannered mother of two daughters who lives in France, and Marty, a more aggressive, quick talking literary agent who lives a typically high-energy New York lifestyle. Recently widowed, she lives a quiet life, except for one minor detail: Every night she falls asleep as Marie, but in the morning wakes up as Marty.

Everything about the two women, from their hairdos and manners to their career interests and hobbies, is radically and completely different. Unlike other sagas about split personalities (The Snake Pit, The Three Faces of Eve), which were clinical in nature and depicted their protags as victims, in Passion of Mind, the heroine is functional and highly aware of her dual existence. The question is, as a bewildered Moore says in her opening voice-over narration, “I don't know who I am anymore. I can't tell my dream world from my real world.”

Both Marie and Marty discuss their multiple lifestyles with two different psychiatrists. Surprisingly, both therapists reach the same conclusion, suggesting that Marie/Marty has created a dream world to provide compensation for what's lacking in her real life. This doesn't lessen the severity of the situation as there's always the danger that her inability to separate between the two worlds might lead to tragic results, possibly even a suicide.

Things change when each woman meets a desirable male in an unexpected context. William Leeds (Skarsgard) is a handsome, sensitive New York writer who courts Marie in a French supermarket by first appealing to her daughter Megan. In contrast, Aaron (Fichtner) is a handsome business manager for one of Marty's writers who piques her interests through the casual and relaxed manner with which he handles both his business and personal life.

Marie/Marty gets seriously involved with both men in relationships that follow disparate paths and exhibit different styles. Marie and William's courtship is emotional and intense, whereas Marty and Aaron first pretend that they're just building a close friendship to facilitate their work together. When Marty tells Aaron about her dreams of being Marie, her confession brings them together on a romantic level.

For a while the story holds interest through its detailed depiction of two parallel romances, each pleasing and seductive in its own way. However, as both women grow closer to their respective men, their two worlds begin to collide and blur: Objects and people from Marie's world begin to invade and cloud Marty's life, and vice versa.

The film is at its weakest when it tries to explain Marie/Marty condition in a more rational and clinical way. Marty's shrink, Dr. Peters (Peter Riegert), explains that the dram of William signifies a need for meaning in her personal life, triggered by the meeting of Aaron, whereas Marie's confidante, Jessie (Sinead Cusack), is convinced that the creation of Aaron is to scare up a little threat and competition to William. As in his previous efforts, Bass is more effective as manipulator of viewers' emotions than as a deep thinker, in this case, a Freudian psychologist who dwells on a traumatic event in the heroine's childhood.

Helmer Berliner builds workable tension in the first part of the narrative through his mise-en-scene, orchestrating, with the help of lenser Eduardo Serra and vet editor Anne V. Coates, smooth transitions between the two disparate milieux.

The film's conception is inseparable from the performers. Moore, who in the past displayed harsh, aggressively tough screen image, reveals a kinder, gentler, more attractive facets. Casting of the two lovers with the appealing Skarsgard and Fichtner, each showing in his own way why women would be attracted to them, is also good.

The trio of thesps keep this fake confection mildly engaging, one that's more enjoyable as variation on the romantic triangle theme than as psychological case of split personality.


A Paramount Classic release of a Lakeshore Entertainment and Paramount Classic presentation, in association with Ron Bass Productions.
Produced by Carole Scotta, Tom Rosenberg and Ron Bass.
Executive producers, Gary Lucchesi, William Kepper, Ted Tannenbaum, and Sigrion Sighvatsson. Co-producer, Andre Lamal. Directed by Alain Berliner.
Screenplay, Ron Bass and David Field.
Camera (DeLuxe, color), Eduardo Serra.
Editor: Anne V. Coates.
Music: Randy Edelman.
Production design: Pierre-Francois Limbosch.
Set decoration: Philippe Leveque.
Costume design: Valerie Pozzo Di Borgo.
Sound: Ludovic Hen.
Assistant director: Douglas Law.
Casting: Deborah Aquila, Sarah Halley Finn.

MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 105 min.


Mareie/Marty…..Demi Moore
William…Stellan Skarsgard
Aaron……William Fichtner
Jessie……..Sinead Cusack
Dr. Peters….Peter Riegert
Dr. Langer…..Joss Ackland
Jennifer……Eloise Eonnet
Sarah……….Chaya Cuenot