Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper (2016) exposes the affective complexities of self-mediation, showing how one’s felt experience exceeds the image one presents to the camera. This process of repression is specifically exposed in one crucial sequence. Maureen (Kristen Stewart) who is waiting in Paris for a sign from her recently deceased twin brother Lewis’ ghost, spends the majority of the film engaged in a text conversation with an anonymous caller. It is suggested (but ultimately never proven) that Maureen is texting with Ingo (Lars Eidinger), the former lover of her employer, the actress Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), in an attempt to frame her for her murder. In one of their text exchanges, Maureen has been lured to a hotel for what she thinks will be her first face-to-face meeting with her unknown interlocutor. Instead, Ingo fails to materialize and their text exchange continues. Immediately after her arrival in the hotel room, Maureen receives a text asking her to send a picture. Dressed in a sequined Chanel dress stolen from Kyra, Maureen proceeds to take a mirrored selfie.
Here, importantly, the film undercuts and interrogates the assumptions that surround the selfie as a format that can authentically exchange for the self. As we see Maureen in the finished product of the selfie photograph, she appears confident and well-polished. Set in dialectical tension with her selfie, however, this pivotal scene captures what Deleuze calls an affection-image, as a look of self-doubt and insecurity sweeps over Maureen’s face immediately preceding her confession of shame and self-alienation as she texts back: “I feel ridiculous. It’s not me. I’m ashamed of myself. I don’t know why I came." In juxtaposition to the apparent truth of the photograph, Assayas’ film reveals to us Maureen’s affective response to it. Rather than sustain or confirm the illusion that the selfie presents oneself, instead the film suggests its suppressive nature, which at best cannot reveal and at worst explicitly contradicts the affective scenario of its production.