Dressed in white, the unknown woman appears like an abject double of the bride, making Emma insecure enough to stumble and fall over her high heels. At the party, the Stranger sings a mocking song, and thus embarrasses everyone once more. She will appear again on several occasions, including Emma’s death.
But this symbolic hint at misfortunes to come is not indispensable to realize the dead-end this marriage that emerged from looking will turn out to be. Emma is lonely at her own party. Her girlhood dreams begin to waver. We see her being shy, not knowing quite how to behave, and trying her best to do what is expected of her. A Priest talks to the couple about the problems of marriage, and tells especially Emma she can always turn to him when trouble arises. Emma tries so hard to be nice that it is painful to watch. This piece, then, concerns a number of ambiguities. It raises questions of social behaviour along with questions of private and public, spontaneous and ritualised behaviour. The beauty of the images belies the painfulness of the events, and vice versa. What makes an event festive; what makes it sad?
The wedding of the couple is presented on a single screen. This is an event both public and private: the outcome of the two previous scenes combined, but at the same time, an event we all recognise and consider to be a moment of happiness. The single screen expresses this generally recognised feature. It is also a day of rituals, of pre-scripted behaviour; in that sense, it is relentlessly impersonal. This is one reason to present the wedding on an open single screen. The settings vary from the somewhat shabby room at the farm, where Emma is being dolled up by a friend, to a gorgeous old church and a home environment where the reception and the party take place.
These spaces are either private ones that are invaded by others, or public settings for private commitment. Small incidents enhance the ambivalence of weddings. A Stranger, an uninvited guest behaving like a social outcast – our equivalent of Flaubert’s “blind beggar” – makes a disturbing appearance, both in the church and at the party.